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.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kindness Ninjas spread the love during COVID-19 – and there’s a local connection to the movement

Veronica Carrier, a grade three teacher at BCE, had her class acting as “kindness ninjas” months ago

Cariboo ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

BC SPCA team helps discover new feline virus after outbreak at Quesnel shelter

Fechavirus is a kind of parvovirus, which makes cats and kittens very sick

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Most Read