Privacy breach leads to demand for WCB investigation: Opportunity to overhaul failing system must not be ignored, say AFL

The Alberta Workers' Compensation Board is failing in its duty towards injured employees and only a full investigation and overhaul can fix the problems, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).

"A ruling this week by the privacy commissioner that the personal medical information of a claimant was illegally released underscores bigger problems at the WCB," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 145,000 workers.

"Today, as the WCB holds its annual meeting, I am calling on Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk to launch a probe into the way the WCB operates, the way it handles privacy issues and the way it treats injured workers," says McGowan.

Gail Cumming, an Edmonton WCB expert and CEO with Cumming Consulting, says the Alberta WCB has a history of complaints about personal and medical privacy being violated, created by a lack of leadership and staff resources.

"The root of the problem is the WCB's focus on rushing injured workers back to the workplace, in order to keep employer premiums down, rather than on caring for people who have been hurt," says Cumming.

McGowan says there must be serious consequences to the illegal privacy violation.

"This matter must not be swept under the rug, or shelved and forgotten. If a doctor or a nurse illegally released patient information, they would face serious consequences from their professional organizations," says McGowan.

"For a long time, the WCB has been putting the needs of employers, and the desire to hide Alberta's true workplace safety records, ahead of the interests of injured workers. This ruling by the privacy commissioner gives Lukaszuk the perfect opportunity to fix things," says McGowan.

"Responding to a question on the WCB, the minister recently told the Alberta Legislature: 'We have the ability to respond to issues as they arise.' Well, the privacy commissioner has clearly pointed out an issue that has arisen. The minister must respond now, or explain why he won't."

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MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888

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