Saskatchewan

Minister replaces eHealth board following damning report by Sask. privacy commissioner

Saskatchewan’s Health Minister Paul Merriman says last week’s damning report by Saskatchewan’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has led him to dismiss the entire board and install a smaller two-person board made up of senior bureaucrats.

Paul Merriman says the new board, made up of bureaucrats, will enable closer oversight of troubled agency

Minister of Health Paul Merriman says he has replaced the entire board of eHealth following a damning report by Saskatchewan's privacy commissioner. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Saskatchewan's Health Minister Paul Merriman says last week's damning report by Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner has led him to dismiss the entire board and install a smaller two-person board made up of senior bureaucrats.

On Friday, Ron Kruzeniski released his report on eHealth, the organization that oversees the IT systems relied on by Saskatchewan's health professionals.

He found that a major 2019 ransomware attack on the organization was preventable and was made possible by a lack of training, a lack of monitoring and a failure to investigate. In addition, he criticized the organization for its failure to properly communicate with the public and its hodge podge of improperly co-ordinated IT systems. 

As a result of that attack, more than 500,000 files containing personal health information of Saskatchewan people fell into the hands of criminals. While that information has not been posted publicly yet, the commissioner warned that it could "be floating around the dark web right now for sale to the highest bidder."

On Monday morning, Merriman announced that he was immediately replacing the existing eight-member board with a new two-person board. Both board members are senior bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health: associate deputy minister Denise Macza and assistant deputy minister Billie-Jo Morrissette.

The news release announcing the change says "the appointments do not reflect a lack of confidence in the previous Board Chair and members."

In an interview, the minister said having a board made up of senior ministry employees will make it easier for him to keep a close eye on the troubled organization.

"We have to have very close eyes on this on the short term to make sure that there are no more challenges with eHealth," he said.

eHealth has seen its share of troubles in recent years. 

In 2018, CBC revealed that members of eHealth's executive took all-expenses-paid trips to high profile events paid for by eHealth vendors. 

In December 2020, CBC reported that, according to an internal memo, eHealth has been underfunded for years and that much of its equipment and software is out of date. 

Minister Merriman said that while eHealth has asked for millions more in funding during this current budget cycle, he's not sure that's really the issue.

"It's not always more money that fixes these problems, but I do understand that they have a request in to us and we'll assess that in due time.

Merriman has asked the new board to appoint an independent person or organization to conduct a top to bottom review of eHealth and make recommendations for change, as recommended by the privacy commissioner.

He's also asked them to review and implement the commissioner's other recommendations.

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.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now