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

Art sessions coming to Keremeos park

Four art programs will be offered in Pine Park From late June through July

Crews building structure at former Summerland train station site

West Summerland Station will pay tribute to railway history, serve as trail marker

$30,000 over 30 weeks for local causes

Send us your good stories and you could win money for your favourite cause

Tap Truck Okanagan launches as first location in Canada

The business is built on a restored 1957 Chevy panel van and ready to serve craft beer on tap, wine or cider

First day back; attending elementary school amid COVID-19

“… Social connections are certainly important for kids,” said Carmi principal Dave Ritchie.

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read