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Health Ministry Rehires Another Wrongly Fired Worker

David Scott, who lost his job in botched 2012 purge, returns as economic analyst.

By Andrew MacLeod 31 Mar 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Another worker fired from the British Columbia health ministry in 2012 is returning this week to work for the provincial government.

The health ministry has hired David Scott to start March 31 as an economic analyst in the business analytics strategies and operations unit.

Scott was among seven ministry employees who lost their jobs in a purge that then health minister Margaret MacDiarmid said involved possible undisclosed conflicts of interest and abuse of access to health data. The ministry also froze or cancelled several drug research contracts.

At the time Scott had 12 years of experience in the ministry and was working as a senior researcher in the analysis branch.

"Mr. Scott applied for a position and was hired through an objective competitive process," a ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Regular appointments to the B.C. public service are based on the principle of merit and a process that appraises the knowledge, skills and abilities of eligible applicants."*

Scott did not immediately respond to interview requests made by email and through a lawyer who has been representing him.

Adrian Dix, who represents Vancouver-Kingsway for the NDP, said he was glad Scott is returning to the health ministry to do work for the people of the province. "He's an outstanding public servant," Dix said. "He was outrageously treated... His dismissal was an outrage."

Gov't backtracked on firings

Many of the people fired in 2012 were involved in assessing the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs, and one contractor alleged in court documents that the real goal of the purge was to protect companies that donate to the BC Liberal Party. The claim was never tested in court.

The government began backtracking on the firings in 2014 and has settled five wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuits out of court. Two of the people fired resumed working for the ministry.

Premier Christy Clark said that in some cases the firings had been heavy-handed, and she apologized to the family of Roderick MacIsaac who killed himself a few months after losing his position as a co-op student in the health ministry.

MacIsaac had been designing an evaluation for an anti-smoking program Clark backed that included providing prescription drugs to smokers.

In a 2014 review, independent lawyer Marcia McNeil found the government made many errors in its investigation, including not giving employees sufficient chance to respond to the allegations made against them and that investigators did not conduct the investigation with open minds.

She also said she could not answer the crucial questions of who ordered the firings or why.

At the request of Health Minister Terry Lake, last September a legislative committee tasked Ombudsperson Jay Chalke with undertaking a review of the firings. That review is ongoing with no deadline for completion.**

*Story updated March 31 at 3 p.m. with health ministry comment.
**Story clarified March 31 at 3:15 p.m.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, BC Politics

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