The 2014 New Brunswick Medical Society Annual General Meeting has come and gone. It has been a year since I presented a motion to the general membership which would require that the leadership of the Society not impede EMR user’s from having electronic access to their patients’ medical reports found in the Department of Health databanks.
So, what has happened since the membership voted overwhelmingly in favour of that motion?
The short answer is: nothing.
Following the approval of the motion we entered a prolonged and unproductive period of dithering and blithering. Here are some of the stumbling blocks along the long and winding road:
1. Non-Velante users are told the NBMS board needed time to determine how best to implement the resolution.
2. We learn that the CEO of the NBMS signed a Data Sharing Agreement in June which prevents all non-Velante EMR users form electronically accessing patient data. He denied the existence of this document at the 2013 Annual General Meeting, despite having signed it three months previously.
3. The NBMS says the Minister of Health refuses to talk about renegotiating the exclusionary Data Sharing Agreement.
4. The NBMS leadership reveals that Velante is not meeting enrollment predictions. Their business plan is in jeopardy.
5. Minister Flemming then says he is willing to discuss all the options, including renegotiating the Data Sharing Agreement.
6. Mr. Flemming says maybe the province will take over the management of the EMR system, and void the Data Sharing Agreement by giving 180 days notice, as provided for in the agreement.
7. Minister Flemming ends up doing nothing of the sort.
8. The NBMS leadership transmogrifies the request for access to patient data to a request for financial help converting to the Velante system, despite that nobody was publicly asking for that, and it had nothing to do with the AGM motion.
9. The NBMS negotiates a $1.5 million dollar per year clause in the Fee For Service contract with the Province, thereby pounding a bung into the sinking ship. Thank you taxpayers! (I thought I would say it, since nobody else did)
At the 2014 NBMS Annual General Meeting the leadership offers an explanation for why the year-old motion has gone precisely nowhere. They go over much of what has been outlined above. Then they release the ultimate bogeyman. The Lawyer. The membership is advised that the board has received legal counsel advising them that if they void the Data Sharing Agreement, they could be sued by the owners of the EMR package marketed by Velante, the New Zealand company, Intrahealth. The spectre of bankruptcy for Velante and quite possibly the New Brunswick Medical Society is raised. Everyone quivers in fear, and the annual review continues on another topic.
Now, this raises a couple of questions. First of all, what the hell did the leadership think they were doing when they signed the cockamamie Data Sharing Agreement in the first place? Why did it take a formal access to information request to bring the Agreement to light?
But, more importantly, how can you have an agreement, which says right there in black in white that it will remain in force indefinitely, which has an escape clause you can’t use because if you do, you will be sued and bankrupted?
It’s like buying a parachute with no ripcord, and not finding out about it until your plane has already augured-in and you are plummeting toward earth at terminal velocity.
It’s like James Bond buying an Aston Martin with an ejection seat, but finding out when it comes time to use it, that the car is a hardtop.
What a tangled web we weave.