Delay in responding to request for information about transferrals between hospitals
On 18 February 2021, the Ministry of Health (the Ministry) received a request for official information under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA), relating to transferrals from Southland Hospital to Dunedin Hospital between 2016 and 2020. The next day, the Ministry confirmed with the Southern District Health Board (the Board) that the requested information was held by the Board. On the same day, the Ministry transferred the request to the Board and advised the requester of the transfer decision.
On 28 September 2021, the requester emailed the Board about the lack of response to her request. The requestor, now complainant, made a complaint to the Chief Ombudsman on the same day. On 30 September 2021, the complainant advised the Ombudsman she had received an acknowledgement from the Board that indicated she would receive a decision on her request by 28 October 2021 at the latest.
Noting a significant delay in making and communicating a decision to the complainant, the Ombudsman formed the opinion that the Board acted ‘contrary to law’  by failing to comply with section 15(1) of the OIA within the 20 working-day statutory timeframe.
Also, given the Board’s advice to the complainant as to when the request was received, the Board not affording the outstanding request priority in its workload queue, and the Board’s lack of a proper explanation given to the complainant, the Ombudsman recommended that the Board:
- Provide the complainant with a full explanation as to the circumstances that resulted in the delay in responding to her request; and
- In future prioritise its response to any additional outstanding OIA requests not initially logged or actioned appropriately.
Subsequent to the Ombudsman’s opinion, the Board wrote to the complainant with a full explanation as to the circumstances that resulted in the delay in responding to her request.
The Board also temporarily allocated an additional two staff members to work alongside its OIA coordinator to ensure that any outstanding requests were addressed and treated with priority while maintaining the capacity to respond to any new requests as per the statutory obligations of the OIA.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.
 See s 30(1)(b) OIA and s 22(1)(a) Ombudsmen Act. Return to text