Letter: A matter of privacy

This letter is addressed to individuals who may soon be renewing their drivers license in B.C.

This letter is addressed to individuals who may soon be renewing their drivers license in B.C. Please note that the standard protocol in the Sparwood ICBC office is to take the particulars of address, age, etc. and then ask, “Do you have any medical conditions?”

The office may be full of individuals, but no matter, you are standing at a counter in a public place of business being asked to divulge personal medical information. You will have to determine how much you disclose since the question is so broad. If you omit any information, do you risk having a claim denied in the future? This broad brush approach does not specify relevant conditions, no checklist is provided, so now anyone within earshot will be aware of your health issues, your medication and any conditions you may decide to declare; cancer, kidney stones, diabetes, depression? It’s all out there now.

Does this sound reasonable, respectful or appropriate? I don’t believe so.

In speaking with Ted Ockenden, manager of regional licensing at the ICBC regional office in Kamloops, I suggested that applicants be routinely taken to a private space for these questions, or at least given a form to complete as is common practise in many offices.

His response, while respectful, did not address my concerns. No doubt some medical issues are relevant, but there has to be a better way to collect that information. His response to that question was that the agents are instructed to “be sensitive to the discomfort level” of the applicant. Really? Wait until you see they are ill at ease? That certainly raises the bar of customer service a notch!

I doubt very much that any one of us would seek a mortgage or credit check while draped over a counter and having a “quiet” conversation within earshot of our neighbours. Such a bank would not stay in business for long. If pharmacies, banks and other businesses which deal with confidential information can provide this, why not ICBC?

I then contacted James Hall, regional supervisor at Western Financial, whose insurance office houses the ICBC in Sparwood. I was told they have no control over ICBC protocols. Provision of privacy would not be cost effective, so no substantial changes could be expected. If, however, you feel it is important to protect your personal information, then begin by saying that you require privacy for these inquiries.

No agency should compromise your medical confidentiality in this manner.

It’s time for all of us to speak up.


Margaret Bellerby

Sparwood, B.C.