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Health minister MacDiarmid confirms fifth firing morning after

This morning Margaret MacDiarmid, British Columbia's health minister, said she could confirm there's been another firing in her ministry but she remains limited in what she could say about the ongoing investigation.

"We're continuing to investigate," she said. "It continues to be complex."

She said due to privacy concerns and the investigation she could not name the person, but that the issues relate to inappropriate conduct, data management and contracting out that led to four firings last week.

The Tyee reported yesterday the ministry had fired Bob Hart, the director of data access, research and stewardship. At that time a spokesperson for the ministry had said he was unable to confirm the firing.

Hart had worked for the government for 30 years and was one of three people who were previously suspended without pay as part of the investigation.

The Tyee has reported that several of the people involved had been working on projects that examined the evidence on the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals, work that would have affected which drugs would be paid for through the province's PharmaCare program.

MacDiarmid said that while she was not in a position to say what sparked the investigation, but that it does not involve drug companies in any way. "There's not a trace of that."

She said a number of research projects related to drugs have been stopped in the province, but she could not say how many or which ones. Nor could she say when things will return to normal for researchers outside the investigation. "We want to get back," she said. "This is really important research in the province."

MacDiarmid repeated a commitment to share information or new developments when she can and acknowledged that the public lacks a full picture of what's happened.

"I realize you've asked me lots of questions I haven't been able to answer and I continue to have lots of questions myself," MacDiarmid said.

A government timeline says the investigation began with a tip in March and an interim review was completed in July. Government officials failed to speak publicly about the matter until Sept. 6, however, a day after The Vancouver Sun published the first story about it.

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

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