Health minister saddened by death of worker fired over privacy breach allegations

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid offered her condolences Thursday on the death of a former employee who was fired last year as part of an ongoing investigation into privacy breach allegations.

Harold Roderick MacIsaac, 46, was found dead by police in his Saanich residence in the 3900 block of Cedar Hill Cross Road about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Saanich police found no apparent foul play nor enough evidence to confirm a suicide. The case has been turned over to the B.C. Coroners Service for further investigation.

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“I am saddened by the news we received yesterday of the unfortunate passing of a former ministry employee,” said MacDiarmid in a statement on Thursday. “I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. MacIsaac.”

MacIsaac was enrolled in a PhD program in the University of Victoria’s school of public administration. He had just days left in his co-op work term at the Ministry of Health when he was fired in late August.

He was part of a ministry-wide committee evaluating the safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the B.C. government’s smoking-cessation program.

On Sept. 6, MacDiarmid said the Health Ministry had asked the RCMP to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct, contracting and data-management practices involving ministry employees and drug researchers.

As of this week, no final complaint has been forwarded to the RCMP financial integrity section, and no police investigation is underway.

The probe is the result of a tip to B.C.’s auditor general in March. The Health Ministry was preparing to announce an update on the investigation when MacIsaac died.

Seven ministry employees say they were fired. Their names were not released by the Health Ministry but have become public. They are: MacIsaac; Ron Mattson, a special projects manager; David Scott, a senior researcher; Ramsay Hamdi, a senior economist; Bob Hart, director of data access; and university professors Malcolm Maclure and Rebecca Warburton, who were co-directors of research and evidence development in the ministry’s pharmaceutical services division.

Mattson and Maclure are suing the province for wrongful dismissal and defamation.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In court documents, Maclure says the Health Ministry’s conduct has caused him to suffer mental distress including anxiety, nightmares, and loss of self-esteem.

Mattson said in an interview Wednesday that he suffers from depression as a result of the firing.

MacIsaac, Scott, and Hamdi, members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, filed grievances. “We wish to express sincere condolences on the passing of Roderick MacIsaac,” said Karen Tankard, BCGEU spokeswoman.

The union doesn’t know what next steps it will take on MacIsaac’s file.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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