FIPA finally gets Ministry of Health records after two year battle

It took two years, but the records requested by FIPA in 2012 regarding contracts and other records related to the mysterious Ministry of Health data breach case have finally been released and are posted on our website.

FIPA had requested the following information:

Photo under CC license by Flickr: Tranchis
Photo under CC license by Flickr: Tranchis
  • Data sharing and other agreements involving the Ministry and four named individuals;
  • Correspondence between the Ministry and the four named individuals relating to the agreements, particularly correspondence about delays or impediments to accessing data for research purposes;
  • E-mails, memos or other notices to staff from the Ministry’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Information Management/Information Technology Division regarding delays or impediments to the release of data to researchers; and
  • Any policy changes relating to release of data to researchers.

FIPA made the request before the firings (and subsequent rehirings) of a number of Ministry employees and contractors working in the Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division. The Ministry initially refused to release any documents, but eventually dropped a number of claims it was using to try to justify refusing to release the records.

The government’s main claim was that releasing these records would damage ongoing investigations into the situation. The Adjudicator was not convinced, stating:

“In my view, the Ministry’s submissions are based on speculation, and there is no objective evidentiary basis for concluding that the harms the Ministry fears will result from disclosure to the applicant.”

The Ministry was also unsuccessful in claiming other records were policy advice or personal information. They were able to keep various computer related records secret, such as passwords.

The records show there was a great deal of concern about getting documents to UBC for signing before the beginning of Question Period to allow the minister to provide a positive answer to questions (p. 265-68). Many of the emails seem to relate to technical difficulties with the wording of the contracts, and also difficulties in gaining access to medical records, usually for technical reasons. There is also mention of the “swamp of data access” (p. 288) and concerns about conflicts of interest being used by “our detractors” (p. 300).