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BC health ministry reinstates one worker it fired in 2012

One of the people the British Columbia government fired in 2012 as part of an investigation into data and contract management is today returning to his job with the health ministry.

"Robert Hart, whose employment as Director of Data Access and Research Stewardship with the British Columbia Ministry of Health was terminated on August 31, 2012, has been fully reinstated to his employment with the provincial government, effective March 3, 2014," wrote Hart's lawyer Robert Gill in an email.

"Mr. Hart relies on the fact of full reinstatement as a demonstration of the government's continuing confidence in him, as a loyal and dedicated public servant with over 29 years service," he said.

Hart was among seven people the government terminated during an investigation that former Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said involved alleged potential conflicts of interest, contracting and responsible data management.

The Tyee reported that the people fired were working on projects, including the assessment of Alzheimer's drugs and Premier Christy Clark's funding of anti-smoking products, that might harm pharmaceutical industry profits.

Gill said Hart is not available for an interview or in a position to add to the emailed statement. Asked if the resolution includes back pay, Gill said all he could say is it is a full reinstatement.

Hart's court case against the government has been discontinued, said Gill. A notice of claim filed on March 11, 2013, in the British Columbia Supreme Court alleged the government fired Hart without just cause or notice, then repeatedly defamed him in press releases and news stories.

A spokesperson for the health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also fired during the 2012 investigation were Malcolm Maclure, a researcher with ties to UBC and UVic, Rebecca Warburton, a co-director of research and evidence development in the pharmaceutical services division and Ron Mattson, a special projects manager who worked on drug intelligence in the PharmaCare branch.

Each, as well as researcher Bill Warburton, has filed their own claims in court against the government. In Warburton's case he alleged the firings were a "bad faith" attack on research that exposes the harmful effects of pharmaceutical drugs and were aimed at protecting the profits of donors to the BC Liberal Party.

Three others, who were union members, went through a grievance process, but did not receive their jobs back. They were Ramsay Hamdi, a senior economist in the utilization health care and risk management branch, David Scott, a senior researcher in the analysis branch, and co-op student Roderick MacIsaac.

MacIsaac was found dead in January, 2013. The coroner's office found MacIsaac's death was a suicide.

MacDiarmid lost her seat in the May, 2013, election and has been replaced as minister by Terry Lake. The deputy minister at the time of the investigation, Graham Whitmarsh, lost his job as part of a post-election shuffle of cabinet ministers and deputies. He was replaced by Stephen Brown.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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