Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests
Virginia law gives citizens of Virginia (and certain news outlets) the right to request and receive public records from public bodies like Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Authority (VCU Health System), subject to certain exemptions. This law is called the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located in § 2.2-3700, et seq., of the Code of Virginia. FOIA is designed to increase public awareness about governmental activities.
If you are a citizen of Virginia, you have the right to request public records from VCU Health System. A public record is any writing or recording – whether paper, electronic, video or any other format – that is made, owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its employees if the record was made while transacting public business. Public bodies, including VCU Health System, must provide records that are requested unless FOIA provides an exemption for that record type.
To request public records from VCU Health System, please contact our FOIA Officer. Please be prepared to provide a description of your request and be as specific as possible. You may be asked to provide your contact information if follow-up clarifications are required. You do not need to state the reason for your request. You will be charged fees that represent the actual cost of reproducing the records you receive. Please scroll down for more information on fees.
The person who can assist you with your request is our FOIA Officer:
Types of Public Records
The types of public records maintained by VCU Health System include, but are not limited to:
- Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable
- Board of Director reports and meeting minutes
- Capital Project
- Emergency Operations Plan
- Grant or Contract Research
- Parking / Transportation
- Risk Management
- Workers’ Compensation
VCU Health System is exempt from providing certain types of public records. The types of records that VCU Health System will NOT provide under FOIA include, but are not limited to:
- Health records, except that such records may be personally reviewed by the individual who is the subject of such records
- Investigative notes
- Proprietary information not published, copyrighted, or patented
- Employee personnel records, except employees, may view their own personal records
- Information furnished to the Office of the Attorney General in connection with an investigation or litigation or other attorney-client privileged information or documents.
- Appraisals and cost estimates of real property subject to a proposed purchase, sale, or lease, prior to the completion of such purchase, sale, or lease
- An individual's qualifications for or continued membership on its medical or teaching staffs
- Proceedings, minutes, records, and reports of medical staff, utilization, quality and peer review committees.
- Proprietary information
- Contract cost estimates prepared for confidential use in awarding contracts for construction or the purchase of goods or services
- Marketing and operational strategies reports or consulting engagements
- Studies or research on medical, scientific, technical, or scholarly issue, when such information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted, or patented
This list is not exhaustive. For additional exemptions, please also see Virginia Code §§2.2-3705.1 through 2.2-3705.8.
The general policy of VCU Health System is to invoke the above-listed exemptions in those instances where they apply to protect the privacy of its employees and patients and confidentiality of certain types of records meriting such protection under FOIA.
VCU Health System’s Responsibilities Under FOIA
- VCU Health System is required to respond to your request for public records within five working days. “Day one” is considered the day after we receive the request. Weekends and holidays do not count as “working days.”
- Under FOIA, VCU Health System’s response shall be one of the following:
- Provide the requested records.
- Withhold all of the requested records because they are all subject to statutory exemptions. If this is the case, VCU Health System will notify you in writing as to the specific exemption, including the Code provision. We can only withhold an entire record if the entire record is subject to an exemption. If a record can be partially withheld, we will redact the information that is subject to the exemption and produce the record.
- Provide some requested records but withhold others. Again, we will notify you in writing as to the specific exemption that applies to the withheld records, including the Code provision.
- Inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. If we know that another public body has the records you are looking for, we will provide their contact information to you.
- Inform you that it is practically impossible to respond within the five days. In such a case, VCU Health System shall have an additional seven working days to respond to your request.
- If you request a large volume of records, or if other circumstances make it difficult to provide the requested records within 12 working days without disrupting the health system’s other organizational responsibilities, FOIA requires that a reasonable effort is made to reach an agreement concerning the production of the records. If we can’t reach an agreement, VCU Health System may be required to seek permission from the courts for additional response time.
A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
VCU Health System may require a deposit if the estimated charges will be in excess of $200. If VCU Health System asks for a deposit, the 5-day response window is on hold until we receive your response. Please note: actual costs may differ from the estimate.
To comment on the quality of assistance you receive after you request public records from VCU Health System, please visit the Freedom of Information Advisory Council’s website at http://foiacouncil.dls.virginia.gov/sample%20letters/welcome.htm and click on “Public Comment Form.”