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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Four   September 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    Civil Servants urge Government to Back Off Selling Health Administration to US Firm

    Jim Lipkovits

    The BC Government and Service Employees Union is appealing to the BC Liberal government to delay its target date for signing up U.S.linked companies to administer personal data until the B.C. Privacy
    Commissioner tables his report.

    Medical Records"The Campbell Liberals seem determined to finalize the contract to administer the Medical Services Plan and PharmaCare with the U.S. based company, Maximus, by the end of August," said George Heyman, BCGEU president.

    "That's several weeks before the Privacy Commissioner has said he will be able to review the over 500 submissions he received and issue his opinion on whether MSP and other personal data can be protected in the face of the USA Patriot Act.

    The BCGEU is one of over 500 organizations that have made submissions to Privacy Commissioner Loukidelis expressing their concerns about the risk to their private and confidential information if administration is outsourced to American companies. Several submissions reportedly have warned that under the USA Patriot Act, the FBI and other federal authorities could demand those companies hand over our data without the knowledge of anyone.

    Despite repeated promises during the 2001 election not to privatize health care services, the Liberals have engaged in wide-spread, and often disastrous and expensive, privatization initiatives. The recent move to sell the MSP administration services has been mired in controversy.

    "I urge the Campbell Liberals to refrain from signing over outsourcing contracts until the Privacy Commissioner has had time to review the issues and table his report. Commissioner Loukidelis has said his report will be delayed until mid-September because of the volume of submissions and complexity of issues," Heyman said.  "The Campbell Liberals should respect the enormity of his task, and shouldn't be rushing to get these deals  signed, sealed and delivered. There's just too much at stake."

    But Geoff Plant, Liberal Attorney General, and Colin Hansen, health minister, insist the sell-off will not threaten the security of people’s medical information.

    “The legislation we have passed clearly protects companies operating in BC from the provisions of the Patriot Act,” Plant told reporters. “Contracted service providers will not be required to turn over medical records to US authorities.”

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