Ombudsperson to review drug researcher firings

Jay Chalke's office exempted from confidentiality agreements, NDP agrees to his independent probe into reason for dismissals

B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke

B.C.’s new Ombudsperson has been given extra authority to investigate the case of eight ministry of health researchers whose work on drug effectiveness was terminated three years ago.

The B.C. government passed amendments Tuesday to allow Ombudsperson Jay Chalke to review the case that has had the government on the defensive since the abrupt dismissal of university researchers in 2012.

The researchers were assessing drugs for eligibility under the province’s Pharmacare program. The health ministry initially said a confidential database of B.C. patients who had taken various drugs had been misused, and some of the researchers appeared to have conflicts of interest.

One fired contractor committed suicide, another is suing the government for wrongful dismissal and the remainder have been paid confidential settlements and reinstated. The government has since apologized for the way the contractors were treated, but reasons for the firings and why they were reversed have not been made clear.

Chalke, a former public trustee appointed Ombudsperson this spring, said he would take the case if confidentiality agreements didn’t prevent him from reviewing documents and getting answers from those involved.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton presented changes to the Ombudsperson Act to exempt the office from confidentiality agreements for this case, and the changes passed the legislature with unanimous consent in under an hour Tuesday.

After an independent labour lawyer was unable to compel testimony from senior health ministry officials, Premier Christy Clark rejected opposition calls for an independent inquiry.

Health Minister Terry Lake referred the issue to the Ombudsperson, and NDP critics agreed to the move after changes were made to give Chalke the authority he needs.

 

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

Just Posted

COLUMN: Diminished Parliament means diminished accountability for Canadians

Bloc Quebecois and NDP use resumption of parliament as bargaining chip

Penticton Farmers Market prepares for return

The weekly market was put on-hold for months due to COVID-19

No injuries in Penticton Indian Band structure fire

The structure, which sustained significant damage, was boarded up and seemingly vacant

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Central Okanagan schools ready to welcome students back

Students are set to go back to school next Monday, June 1

Houseboat company partly owned by Shuswap MLA withdraws controversial ad

The ad welcomed houseboaters from other provinces, contradicting anti COVID-19 measures.

Squabble between campers in North Shuswap leads to bear spraying

An argument over late night partying escalated into a fight which led to one person being sprayed

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Penticton may soon allow drinking alcohol in some public places

Trying to inconspicuously drink on the beach could become a thing of the past

VIDEO: Flowers stolen from Vernon distillery

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery captured surveillance footage of the thief in a black car

Most Read