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The FOI process behind the story

Xtra made a 19-point freedom of information (FOI) request dated June 11, 2010, to the Ministry of Health Services for any documents related to the future of St Paul’s Hospital and the Esperanza Society. In that request, Xtra asked that any associated fees be waived in the public interest.

On July 9, 2010, the Ministry of Citizens’ Services assessed Xtra $1,705 for the request, saying it would take 52 hours to locate, retrieve and prepare the 575 pages it said the request covered.

A deposit of half that amount was requested to begin processing the request.

The same day, Xtra again asked for a waiver of the fee, citing public interest around the redevelopment of St Paul’s Hospital. Such exemptions are specified in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. On July 30, 2010 the ministry said it would not grant such a waiver.

On Aug 6, 2010, Xtra appealed that decision to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. It reviewed the file and, on April 11, 2011, said the Ministry of Health has reconsidered its decision and the fee would be waived.

In the April 11 letter, Xtra was told the revised date for responding to the request would be May 31. Xtra received 100 pages on Sept 3.