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Sixth person fired in health ministry investigation

Oct 25 2012
Margaret MacDiarmid: B.C. government is protecting people's private information. 

Margaret MacDiarmid: B.C. government is protecting people's private information.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

The B.C. government has fired a sixth person as part of its investigation into an alleged breach of privacy and conflict-of-interest rules in the health ministry’s pharmaceutical services division, the Times Colonist has learned.
B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid confirmed early Wednesday morning “one more person has been terminated in our data-breach investigation.”
MacDiarmid announced in September that an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct, data management and contracting-out had resulted in seven people being fired or suspended. This week the total fired moved up to six, with just one of the original seven remaining suspended without pay.
“All of the people who have been terminated have been notified in writing as to the reasons for this,” MacDiarmid said.
The Ministry of Health has announced the investigation and firings with the expressed intent of being open, however it has not explained in any detail why the individuals have been fired, nor has it released the names to the media.
However, sources have confirmed those fired include: Bob Hart, a 30-year government employee and director of data access, research and stewardship; Ron Mattson, a special projects manager; David Scott, a senior researcher; Ramsay Hamdi, a senior economist; and UVic PhD student Roderick MacIsaac.
The two remaining suspended without pay were co-directors of research and evidence development in the ministry’s pharmaceutical services division: Rebecca Warburton, at the University of Victoria; and Malcolm Maclure, at the University of BC. It has not been confirmed which of the two were fired.
Maclure has filed a wrongful dismissal and defamation suit. A notice of civil claim was filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Sept. 14. Both Mattson and Warburton have retained lawyers. Warburton could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday. Hart has not been reached for comment.
The B.C. Government Employees’ Union represents three of the unionized employees: Scott, Hamdi, and MacIsaac. It filed three grievances when its members were suspended and another three grievances when they were fired.
The tentacles of the investigation have been far reaching, suspending  important drug research and the sharing of ministry data with researchers.
The government suspended $4 million worth of contracts with UBC and UVic. The Health Ministry also suspended a contribution agreement with the UBC-based Therapeutics Initiative, an independent research group that acts as a drug-safety watchdog for British Columbians. The $550,000 contract represents the majority of the organization's funding.
The province’s investigation started in May as the result of a tip to the auditor general in March.
ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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