Health-care workers better protected by expanded whistleblower legislation

Health-care workers will benefit from new protections when bringing forward concerns about serious wrongdoing as the scope of the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) expands to people working at health authorities, Providence Health, and BC Emergency Health Services as of Thursday, June 1, 2023.

“No one is above the rules. When someone sees something that could seriously undermine confidence in public services, it’s vital they feel they can safely share those concerns without fear of repercussion,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. “As we bring more employees under the protections of this legislation, British Columbians can be reassured that serious wrongdoing will not get in the way of delivering on the services we need most.”

PIDA promotes accountability and transparency by providing a framework for employees to report serious wrongdoing to designated officers within their organization or to the Office of the Ombudsperson without fear of reprisal.

“The whistleblower protection law provides an important protection for health-care workers to voice their concerns about serious wrongdoing as we take action to strengthen our public health-care system,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This is the result of years of diligent work done in light of the ombudsperson’s recommendations in the Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters report. I thank everyone in the health organizations who have supported the development of the Public Interest Disclosure Act thus far, and I am proud of this legislation under our government.”

Employees who participate in PIDA investigations are protected from reprisals, such as demotion, termination or other measures that adversely affects an employee’s work conditions. This ensures that employees, both current and former, who are under investigation or participating in an investigation, are treated fairly.

PIDA also requires ministries and the ombudsperson to report the number of disclosures they receive and the results of any investigations they undertake each year.

The Province passed PIDA in 2018 in response to the ombudsperson’s 2017 report, Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters. The Province has implemented all 41 recommendations from the report.

Government has been progressively implementing the act across the public sector since it came into force on Dec. 1, 2019. It currently applies to staff in government ministries, independent offices of the legislature, tribunals, and select agencies, boards, commissions, and Crown corporations, such as BC Housing. Bringing health authorities under PIDA will extend the protections available under the act to healthcare workers.

Other organizations, including educational institutions and health agencies, will be brought under PIDA in December 2023, and in 2024.

Quick Facts:

  • Specific types of wrongdoing that may be disclosed under PIDA include:
    • a serious act or omission that, if proven, would constitute an offence under an enactment of B.C., or Canada;
    • an act or omission that creates substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of an employee’s duties or functions;
    • a serious misuse of public funds of public assets;
    • gross or systemic mismanagement; and
    • knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit a wrongdoing above.

Learn More:

To read the Public Interest Disclosure Act, visit: https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/18022

To learn more about PIDA and how to make a disclosure, visit: https://bcombudsperson.ca/public-interest-disclosure/how-to-report-a-wrong-doing/

A backgrounder follows.

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