Health Minister Terry Lake

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

White Rock council say closure of the city’s pier, promenade and parking lots are not under consideration at this time, but have approved other COVID-19 options for the waterfront including stepped-up RCMP patrols that are already part of detachment planning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock pier, promenade, parking lot closures off the table – for now

Council members warn decision subject to future provincial health orders

It remains to be seen how tourism dollars announced this week will help in White Rock. (Sterling Cunningham file photo)
White Rock officials question if tourism relief will come soon enough

For business, budget ‘feels more like a placeholder,’ says chamber head

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
South Surrey, White Rock MLAs call Tuesday’s provincial budget ‘disappointing’

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford say residents are getting less for more

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

Canadian money (Black Press Media files)
Surrey, Burnaby residents to pay $141K for their part in U.S.-based Ponzi, pyramid scheme

B.C. Securities Commission says the two raised about US$15M from more than 1,400 investors

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
BREAKING: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Firefighters carry equipment from the scene of Monday’s Willoughby fire. The April 19, 2021 blaze turned the Alexander Square development at the corner of 208th Street and 80th Avenue to rubble. (Rob Wilton/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Most Read