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November 14, 2000

Mr. Michael L. Spain
Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P.
300 Convent Street, Suite 2200
San Antonio, Texas 78205

OR2000-4411

Dear Mr. Spain:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141256.

The City of Schertz (the "city"), which your law firm represents, received a request for twelve categories of information relating to local emergency medical services ("EMS") and to the EMS response to a particular situation. You inform us that the city has released information that is responsive to categories (f) through (l) of the request. You claim that information responsive to categories (a) through (e) is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted. We also received and have considered the comments which the requestor submitted to this office.

Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses information that is protected under statutory confidentiality provisions. You claim that the information in question is confidential under section 552.101 in conjunction with section 773.091 of the Health and Safety Code. Section 773.091 provides in relevant part:

(a) A communication between certified emergency medical services personnel or a physician providing medical supervision and a patient that is made in the course of providing emergency medical services to the patient is confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.

(b) Records of the identity, evaluation or treatment of a patient by emergency medical services personnel or by a physician providing medical supervision that are created by the emergency medical services personnel or physician or maintained by an emergency medical services provider are confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.

Health & Safety Code 773.091(a), (b). Section 773.091 further provides, however, that

[t]he privilege of confidentiality under this section does not extend to information regarding the presence, nature of injury or illness, age, sex, occupation, and city of residence of a patient who is receiving emergency medical services.

Health & Safety Code 773.091(g). You have not informed us that any exception to confidentiality under the Emergency Medical Services Act, chapter 773 of the Health and Safety Code, is applicable here. See Health & Safety Code 773.092.

You claim that all of the submitted information is confidential under section 773.091(b) of the Health and Safety Code. We have considered your arguments and have carefully examined the information in question. We conclude that the information that we have marked as such is within the scope of section 773.901(b). Except as specified by section 773.091(g), that information is confidential and must be withheld from the requestor under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We are not persuaded, however, that section 773.091 of the Health and Safety Code encompasses the rest of the information in question. As you have not raised any other exception to the disclosure of that information, it must be released.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ).

Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497.

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.

Sincerely,


James W. Morris, III
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JWM/er

Ref: ID# 141256

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. George Mower
501 Brooks Avenue
Schertz, Texas 78154
(w/o enclosures)


 

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