A union representative for IT staff at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has several concerns about a report issued last week and how the provincial government is managing its infrastructure and residents’ information.
Last week, the province’s privacy commissioner released a report detailing a large privacy breach that resulted in a minimum of 547,145 files being stolen that potentially contained personal information or personal health information.
On Thursday, SEIU president Barbara Cape said there were a “number of alarming pieces” that she read in the report. She also followed up with the provincial auditor’s report from last year. SEIU represents the IT staff within SHA.
“That lead me to believe that not only do we not have enough of a robust process around privacy breaches, and ransomware but we have not invested nearly enough money in order to manage 12 separate information systems merging into one,” Cape said.
“Those are aging information systems from the former health region, that really need to be upgraded in order to keep yours and mine and everybody else’s personal health information from actually going into the dark web.”
Cape believes eHealth, the Ministry of Health and SHA can all improve. She said it’s important to take a pause and wait to transfer all of the SHA’s IT services to eHealth until the corporation “can put in place a far more structured and a strong leadership team at the board of directors.”
Cape added that SEIU has heard concerns about the structure of eHealth, supervision and oversight for a couple of years now.
“Getting these reports from the provincial auditor and the privacy commissioner has just re-enforced what our members have been saying all along which is eHealth needs to get their house in order before we transfer IT services,” Cape said.
As for what else she thinks the government needs to do, Cape says they should review funding and the mandate of eHealth and invest in upgrading IT servers within the system. She also believes there needs to be a policy review so that eHealth can continue serving the Ministry of Health and SHA and that their policies “keep up” as well.
“They are integrated systems and we need to recognize that as goes one, so go all of those systems,” Cape explained.
On Tuesday, Minister of Health Paul Merriman announced the appointment of two new board of directors for eHealth Saskatchewan.
The new board consists of Ministry of Health Associate Deputy Minister Denise Macza and Ministry of Health Assistant Deputy Billie-Jo Morrissette.
“The appointments do not reflect a lack of confidence in the previous board chair and members,” an earlier release from the government stated.
The purpose of the new board is to begin an independent review of governance, management and operations at eHealth. The board will also “provide oversight” to eHealth.
Merriman said the action was taken “to ensure the organization responsible for protecting health information is meeting the serious expectations of Saskatchewan citizens.”
Cape believes the government needs to take time to “rebuild” the crown corporation before transferring more work to it.
“That’s what we’re advocating is they need to really put some robust work in making sure this is Crown that fulfills its mandate to keep health information private and accessible to the people of Saskatchewan,” Cape said . “If they’re going to manage all of the IT services, this government has got to invest some significant dollars into real infrastructure building.”
eHealth Saskatchewan is a crown corporation that “has been mandated by the Province to lead all IT services for the SHA.” It collects and manages all electronic health records of Saskatchewan residents.