Health Minister Terry Lake

B.C. health minister under fire for firings

Terry Lake apologizes repeatedly in legislature, promises independent probe of case that led to research contractor's suicide

VICTORIA – Opposition critics used their first question period of the fall legislative session Tuesday to demand accountability from the B.C. government on the firing of seven health ministry staff and contractors over alleged misuse of confidential health data in 2012.

NDP leader John Horgan reminded the government that two years after the allegations surfaced, two health researchers have been reinstated, two others were “unfired” and one, university co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide after having his research contract terminated with only days left to go.

Health Minister Terry Lake repeatedly apologized in the legislature and acknowledged that the handling of some aspects of the case was “heavy-handed.” Lake referred to an independent investigation announced last week by the public service to review the way employees and contractors were treated, but he also defended the need to act on the information breach.

Letters were sent out to 38,000 B.C. residents in early 2013, notifying them that their confidential health information was copied to a data stick and shared without authorization. There were no names in the data, but it included personal health numbers, gender, date of birth, postal codes and information from a Statistics Canada health survey on mental and physical health and use of health services.

Horgan replied that “not one scrap of data left the Ministry of Health, and the minister knows that.” He and other opposition MLAs demanded Lake clear the air about an alleged police investigation into the data handling, since a year after the allegations surfaced, the RCMP had still not received a report from the government.

The ministry staff and research contractors were using patient data for research related to which drugs were approved for use under B.C.’s Pharmacare program. An investigation by B.C.’s privacy commissioner concluded that the data were shared with unauthorized people, apparently “to work around the lengthy approval process.”

NDP health critic Judy Darcy said the government’s decision to send MacIsaac’s family a cheque for the final days of his employment, with no other communication, was unacceptable.

“Heavy-handed would be an understatement,” Darcy said. “We have witnessed the actions of a government that did its level best to avoid responsibility for ruining eight people’s lives until the heartfelt pleadings of Linda Kayfish, Roderick MacIsaac’s brave sister, shamed this government into action.”

 

Just Posted

Final key components for Johnson Street Bridge installed this weekend in Victoria

Dynamic Beast crane barge arrives back in town on Friday

Metchosin supports moving to three-year municipal term

Some councillors say four years is too much of a commitment

Wind warning in effect for Greater Victoria

Strong winds could reach up to 80 km/hr along coastal areas

Whisky society commits to charity donation in wake of whisky raids

Refund of Victoria Whiskey Festival tickets won’t impact charity beneficiaries

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington for the day

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, “high avalanche danger”

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Touring art from war-torn Syria on display at Cedar Hill

Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art, Jan. 24 to Feb. 5 at Cedar Hill Arts Centre

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Vessel washed ashore in Campbell River during last night’s storm

A vessel appears to have gotten loose and washed to shore on… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

Most Read