Saskatchewan·CBC Investigates

3 people dismissed 'with cause' in the midst of eHealth Saskatchewan procurement investigation

The organization that manages the personal health records of Saskatchewan people, eHealth Saskatchewan, has dismissed three employees "with cause” in relation to an ongoing “follow the money” investigation into contract procurement.

Agency responsible for Sask. health records conducting ‘follow the money’ audit of ‘existing contracts’

eHealth Saskatchewan, which manages the province's personal medical records, has launched a 'follow the money' investigation into the organization's contracts. (saskatchewan.ca)

eHealth Saskatchewan has dismissed three employees "with cause" in relation to an ongoing "follow the money" investigation into contract procurement.

The agency, which manages the province's personal medical records, confirmed the dismissals in recent committee meetings at the Saskatchewan legislature under questioning by the NDP's Danielle Chartier.

"We did have enough cause to dismiss the employees." - Max Hendricks, eHealth interim CEO

Interim CEO Max Hendricks, who is also the Deputy Minister of Health, told a May 24 meeting of the Human Service Committee the investigation has been conducted in two phases. Phase one is complete.

"Phase one was really around concerns that the code of conduct and/or conflict of interest guidelines or policies in place at eHealth had been violated," Hendricks said. "The initial phase was sufficient to take the action that we did with those employees."

'No severances were provided'

Hendricks confirmed that three people, two eHealth employees and one Saskatchewan Health Authority employee who was seconded to eHealth, were dismissed "with cause."

"We did have enough cause to dismiss the employees," Hendricks told a June 13 meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

"They were with cause and so no severances were provided," he explained a few weeks earlier in a Human Services Committee meeting.

Hendricks was quick to point out that eHealth's decision could be challenged by the employees.

"They make take legal action against us and say there was an unfair dismissal."

eHealth says the second phase of the investigation, which is being conducted by a law firm, is ongoing.

"eHealth respects the privacy of current and past employees, so we will not be providing further details at this time," a spokesperson wrote.

'Focus would be following the money'

Through access to information, CBC has learned some details about how the investigation was launched.

In early April, then interim CEO of eHealth Kevin Wilson wrote to Billie-Jo Morrissette, the executive director of the financial services branch of the Ministry of Health.  

"We need to do a review of existing contracts," Wilson said. He asked Morrissette to recommend someone to conduct the review which "would be following contracts and payment."

Wilson explained that the board "suggested external resource would be preferable" and he said the "focus would be following the money."

At a May 23 Human Services committee meeting, Chartier said that it's not just this ongoing investigation that is cause for concern at eHealth. She pointed out the organization is on its second interim CEO since October and has seen an almost complete turnover on the board in recent months.
NDP health critic Danielle Chartier is worried about the consequences of the ongoing instability at eHealth. (CBC News)

"And this is an organization… that's taking on some really important work, and has just taken over a good chunk of money from the health regions to be responsible for IT, so I do have some very big concerns," Chartier said. "IT is at the heart of everything that happens in health care… And the organization, with all due respect, seems not entirely stable at this point in time."

Minister Jim Reiter replied "I would say, you know, your concerns are valid," and he pointed out the organization is actively looking for a permanent CEO.

eHealth reminds employees to follow the rules

Hendricks told Chartier the organization has taken steps to ensure all current employees know the rules by asking all of them to "go back and review the code of conduct policies of the organization and the conflict of interest policies within the organization."

Chartier asked if the the investigative report will be made public.

"It depends on the findings of the report," Hendricks replied. "As the interim CEO, I report to a board and they will make that determination. You know, generally we lean towards transparency, that sort of thing. You know, we believe it's good practice."

During the June 13 meeting, Hendricks explained that at that point police hadn't been called.

"If it's determined that we think we have something that would be of interest to law enforcement, we would turn it over to them," he said.

Have a tip on this story? Contact Geoff Leo - geoff.leo@cbc.ca

About the Author

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.