box10.gif (1299 bytes)







Government & policy

Three charged in British Columbia eHealth scandal

VICTORIA, B.C. Ė After a two-year investigation, a special prosecutor in British Columbia has charged three men with fraud and breach of trust in connection with the awarding of several hundred thousand dollars worth of provincial contracts for telehealth systems.

The three include Ron Danderfer (pictured), a former assistant deputy minister of health, who oversaw the creation of the provinceís $222-million electronic health records project, eHealth, about five years ago.

Danderfer was charged with three counts of fraud against government and one count of breach of trust by a public officer, for allegedly accepting rewards from medical consultant Dr. Jonathan Burns in exchange for government contracts and business.

While assistant deputy minister of health between 2004 and 2007, Danderfer allegedly accepted the use of Burnsís Kelowna condominium, a job for his wife and the promise of post-retirement income for himself in exchange for helping to provide Dr. Burns with government contracts, according to court documents.

Danderfer and his wife, a senior official in the Ministry of Children and Family Development, were suspended in the summer of 2007 and retired that October.

In total, Dr. Burns is charged with eight counts of fraud and breach of trust. Some of the charges are connected to the procurement of contracts with the Fraser Health Authority through a senior Fraser health official named Keith Taylor. Taylor is charged with allegedly helping Burns secure contracts in exchange for use of Burnsís Kelowna condo and a job for his wife in Burnsís company.

The three men are to make their first court appearances April 7. Special prosecutor John Waddell, a Victoria lawyer, will lead the prosecution in an attempt to remove any perception of government bias or influence through provincially employed Crown prosecutors.

Through eHealth, the government is attempting to computerize the medical records, histories, prescription information and test results of British Columbians so the information can be easily accessed by medical practitioners across the province.

B.C.ís auditor general, John Doyle, criticized the approach to eHealth, saying in a report last month that government planned the project poorly.

Health Minister Kevin Falcon acknowledged the criticism and promised to give Doyle updates every six months. ďItís a large and complex project that is having challenges right across the country,Ē Falcon said.

Opposition health critic Adrian Dix said the charges against the three men are serious, but his main concern is how the province has handled the $222-million project, which he called ďa disaster.Ē

Posted March 11, 2010