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July 21, 1999

Ms. Linda Wiegman
Supervising Attorney
Office of General Counsel
Texas Department of Health
1100 West 49th Street
Austin, Texas 78756-3199

OR99-2046

Dear Ms. Wiegman:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 125976.

The Texas Department of Health (the "department") received a request for information regarding reported outcome standards for dialysis units in the Houston, Harris County area. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 251.015(c) of the Health and Safety Code and section 5.08 of article 4495b of Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed a representative sample of the documents at issue.(1)

Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." You contend that the requested documents are confidential in their entirety pursuant to section 251.015(c) of the Health and Safety Code, and are, therefore, excepted from disclosure under section 552.101. Chapter 251 of the Health and Safety Code provides for the licensing and regulation of end stage renal disease facilities.

Section 251.015 of the Health and Safety Code provides as follows:

    (a) A medical review board shall advise the board on minimum standards and rules to be adopted under this chapter.

    (b) The medical review board shall review the information on quality of care provided in the annual report filed under Section 251.013(f) and other appropriate information provided to or compiled by the [Texas Department of Health] with respect to an end stage renal disease facility. Based on the review, the medical review board may advise the department about the quality of care provided by a facility and recommend an appropriate corrective action plan under Section 251.061 or other enforcement proceedings against the facility.

    (c) Information concerning the quality of care provided to or compiled by the department or medical review board and a recommendation of the medical review board are confidential. The information or recommendation may not be made available for public inspection, is not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, and is not subject to discovery, subpoena, or other compulsory legal process.

    (d) The department, in its discretion, may release to a facility information relating to that facility that is made confidential under Subsection (c). Release of information to a facility under this subsection does not waive the confidentiality of that information or the privilege from compulsory legal process.

Section 251.061(g) of the Health and Safety Code provides in part:

    (g) A corrective action plan is not confidential. Information contained in the plan may be excepted from required disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, in accordance with that chapter or other applicable law.

The submitted documents consist of information that the department compiled while carrying out its duty to license and regulate end stage renal disease facilities. The documents do not include any corrective action plans. These documents are confidential under section 251.015(c) and must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.101.

Because we are able to resolve this matter under section 251.015(c), we do not address your additional argument against disclosure of the submitted documents. We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Karen E. Hattaway
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

KEH/ch

Ref: ID# 125976

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Alvin T. Grant
2611 Southmore Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77004-7705
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. We assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
 

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