Wednesday, 28 March 2012

JetBlue flight diverted after captain's 'erratic' behavior

JetBlue flight diverted after captain's 'erratic' behavior

 By the CNN Wire Staff - Updated 2:37 AM EDT, Wed March 28, 2012

(CNN) -- A JetBlue flight bound for Las Vegas made an emergency landing in Texas on Tuesday after the captain acted strangely, was locked out of the cockpit by his co-pilot and was wrestled to the ground by passengers, witnesses and authorities said.

The plane's co-pilot, concerned by the "erratic" behavior, locked the door behind the captain when he left the cockpit during the flight, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Passengers described to CNN what happened next.

"The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, 'We've gotta pull the throttle back. We've gotta get this plane down,'" said Laurie Dhue.

"At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie," she said.

Amateur video of the incident showed a commotion as several men were moving in the aisle. A voice, purportedly that of the pilot, can be heard.

"Oh my God. I'm so distraught!" he shouts. The voice mentions Israel and Iraq.

In another video, passengers appeared to be standing over something, or someone, presumably the subdued pilot.

Paul Babakitis, another passenger and a retired New York police officer, said he was one of the men who helped wrestle the captain to the ground.

"I felt if he got in the cockpit, he was going to try to take that plane down, and not for a safe landing," he said.

Law enforcement met the aircraft, cuffed the pilot and took him off the plane, Babakitis said. Video showed someone being carried off the plane in a sort of chair.

"I'm not foreign to situations like this, but I don't expect them at 30,000 feet," he said.

Babakitis and some other passengers reported hearing the captain say the word "bomb" at one point. However, passenger Jason Levin said he did not hear him say that.

Levin was sitting in the front row of the plane, full of people on their way to a security conference, when the pilot came out of the cockpit.

"It just seemed like something triggered him to go off the wall. He would be calm one minute and then just all of sudden turn," he said. "If it was going to happen, it happened at the right time and the right place."

Passenger Tony Antolino hailed the co-pilot as a hero.

"The co-pilot of the flight, he really -- I think -- is the hero here because he had the sense to recognize that something was going horribly wrong, and he was able to persuade the pilot out of the cockpit," he told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."

Jet Blue Flight 191 left New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 7:28 a.m.

"At roughly 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. ET, the pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, Texas, for a medical situation involving the captain. Another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo and took over the duties of the ill crew member once on the ground," JetBlue said.

The crew member was taken off the plane and transported to a medical facility, it added.

FBI Special Agent Lydia Maese said the FBI responded to the incident and is coordinating with Amarillo and airport police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration. She declined further comment, saying an investigation is pending.

Everything considered, passenger Antolino said he felt thankful. "This could have had a horrific outcome."


This article talks about a crisis that occurred on a JetBlue flight that took off from New York and was bound for Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 27th 2012. Midway through the flight, the captain of the plane started behaving erratically which alarmed the co-pilot. The co-pilot convinced the Captain to step out of the cockpit and then locked him out of it. This upset the Captain even more and he allegedly started banging on the cockpit door at which point a few passengers wrestled him to the ground and subdued him. The plane had to make an emergency landing In Texas and an off duty pilot that was on the plane was able to take over the Captain’s responsibility and land the plane.

For the people on the plane at the time, this was definitely a crisis. This is a risk for JetBlue and would’ve been a crisis had someone been injured because of the Captain’s erratic behaviour. This is an issue for the employees of JetBlue and their union if they have one as they need to investigate whether this was caused by the captain being overstressed or overworked. If this is the case, then this is also an issue for JetBlue management which needs to be resolved before a situation like this happens again in which the consequences could be much worse.
The co-pilot handled the crisis situation very well. He recognized that the Captain was behaving abnormally and convinced him to step out of the cockpit. If he had not done this, the Captain could have taken control of the plane and crashed it if he wasn’t in the right mind. The passengers and flight attendants also handled the crisis well when they were able to subdue the captain after his outburst. JetBlue has responded to this crisis intelligently as it has only given the public the facts and has not speculated on the medical or mental issue that the pilot had. They only said that the captain was ill and that they would not comment further until they finished their investigation of the matter.

The airline industry need to monitor this situation and the results of the investigation so that they can develop crisis scenarios and conduct crisis simulations with staff involving something like this happening on one of their flights.
Since there are videos available on YouTube and other social media of the situation occurring, JetBlue should engage in crisis communication with the pubic using this same forum so that they can “be where the action is”.
JetBlue also needs to involve local regulators such as the FBI who responded to the incident and with the Amarillo, Texas police, airport police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration in developing crisis management plans or handling situations such as this. This being the aviation industry, they already have a lot of crisis management tools in place so they would need to find out what already exists and if all they need to do is investigate this particular incident. It is possible that the co-pilot recognizing the Captain’s erratic behaviour and getting him to leave the cockpit was part of an already developed crisis scenario.

Personally, I am just thankful that this crisis did not become a bigger crisis had the plane crashed because of the erratic behaviour of the pilot. I will wait for the results of the investigation before making comments or giving advice to those involved. I would just remind JetBlue and the airline industry in general to follow their own crisis management systems to prevent crises for happening such as limiting the hours of flight time for pilots.

Australia - Glass found in kids' snack = Recall

Glass found in Healtheries Kidscare Rice Wheels Multipacks - The Daily Telegraph March 03, 201212:00AM

GLASS has been found in a children's snack food, leading to a national recall.

Healtheries Kidscare Rice Wheels Multipacks - with a best-before date of 04/01/13 or earlier - are being recalled after glass was detected in three separate packages.

Vitaco Health Australia said it did not know how the glass got into its product.

"We're undertaking an investigation," Vitaco Health Australia's general manager Ryan d'Almeida said. No injuries have been reported.

The firm said the product would be taken off shelves immediately: "We initiated the recall this afternoon.

"Consumers should return the product to the supermarket for a full refund."

Vitaco Health Australia is also recalling Healtheries The Wiggles Ricey Bites with the same best-before date because they were made on the same production line.

"We take food safety seriously, and the wellbeing of our consumers is our top priority," Mr d'Almeida said.

"We apologise to all our valued customers for this inconvenience."


On March 2nd 2012, Vitaco Health Australia initiated a product recall on their Healtheries Kidscare Rice Wheels Multipacks (with a certain best before date) because there has been glass found in three different packages. They have also recalled their Healtheries The Wiggles Ricey Bites with the same best-before date because it was made on the same production line. This is a crisis for the company because the two products they have recalled are snack foods for kids. Luckily there have no reports of any injuries associated with this yet but he company is still recalling these two products as the safety of their customers is their top priority. They are also offering a full refund for the recalled products so their customers will not feel that they had to pay for the company’s mistakes or lapse in quality control.

The company is currently in a crisis because it has had to recall two of its products and there is also a risk that someone who is not aware of the recall will be injured by eating the snack and ingesting glass.

Vitaco Health Australia is in crisis stage right now and seems to be handling this crisis very well. They initiated a product recall as soon as they found out there were only three incidents. Other companies may have waited for more incidents before undertaking a voluntary recall and losing millions of dollars. This shows the public that the company is concerned about customer safety first. This will ensure that the company will retain public trust, most of its customers, and will be able to win back most of the customers that it loses during this crisis.

 Vitaco Health Australia seems to have a crisis management team in place that is handling the recall and is also communicating with the media and its primary and secondary stakeholders on the situation. They also have a recall notice clearly visible on their company website’s homepage and it states the issue and also a message from the General Manager of the company who seems to be the spokesperson for this crisis. His message is short, simple and clear. “We take food safety seriously, and the wellbeing of our consumers is our top priority,". Also, the company has a 1-800 number listed right underneath this message that customers can call if they have any concerns. I believe this number is their crisis management “war room” number that is dedicated to handling concerns from the media and customers.

I feel that this company will be able to recover from this crisis because of the crisis preparedness that it displayed during this recall. It identified the crisis before any of its stakeholders such as the media or customers; it participated in a voluntary recall and had a well crafted message and spokesperson to address concerns during this crisis.

Personally, if I were a customer of Vitaco Health Australia, I would be slightly hesitant to purchasing their products for a little while, maybe 6 months, but I would probably return to them because of how they handled this situation. I would tell Vitaco Health Australia to investigate how the glass ended up in their products and also look at other quality assurance practices in its plants to ensure that they don’t have a crisis like this again. I would also tell them to develop crisis scenarios for other issues that could occur and have a good issues anticipation system. They do not need to improve their crisis website as the crisis information is easily accessible through their main page. At this point, Vitaco Health Australia should involve Australia’s version of the Canada Food and Inspection Agency (local regulators) to discuss this issue and perform a thorough review and identify other potential crises. They should also involve other stakeholders such as their retailers and suppliers and show them their crisis management plan for this crisis and for future crises if they occur. 

Carrefour ordered to close China store

Carrefour ordered to close China store

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Sally Huang; Editing by Don Durfee and Matt Driskill) Reuters – Mon, Mar 19, 2012

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in central China have ordered European retail giant Carrefour to temporarily close one of its stores, a local government official said on Monday, days after state media said the chain was passing off regular chicken as free-range meat.

 The closure is the latest case of Chinese officials cracking down on foreign brands and comes after food safety authorities said last week they were investigating a Beijing branch of McDonald's Corp , the world's biggest hamburger chain, after reports of quality problems there.

State media had reported that the Carrefour store in the capital of Henan province, Zhengzhou, had been selling meat with expired freshness dates and mislabeled ordinary chicken as free-range chicken.

 "According to the law on protection of consumer rights and interests, our office on March 18 issued an order for Carrefour's Huayuan branch to cease and reorganize operations," an official at the local industry and commerce department told Reuters by phone, reading a statement.

"After reorganization is completed to meet standards, it can resume operations," she said, without giving further details.

 Repeated calls to Carrefour's China office on Monday went unanswered.

 Carrefour China earlier had posted an apology for the incident on its Chinese-language website (, saying the company was taking immediate measures to resolve the food safety issues.

 "Carrefour China attaches great importance to...reports of fresh food product quality management at the Zhengzhou Huayuan store and sincerely apologizes for any impact or losses suffered by consumers," the statement said.

China has struggled to rein in health violations in the unruly and vast food sector despite harsh punishments and repeated vows to deal with the problem.

The country is notorious for its food safety woes, with tales of fake cooking oil, tainted milk and watermelons that explode from being fed too much fertilizer, regularly appearing in the news.

 Last October, 13 Wal-Mart stores in the city of Chongqing were shut down for two weeks after local authorities discovered branches of the world's largest retailer selling regular pork labeled and priced as organic.

Both the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China have published reports saying foreign firms are sometimes unfairly singled out for punishment.


A branch of the European retail giant Carrefour that is located in Zhengzhou, China was ordered to be closed by the local industry and commerce department. This was because of an investigative report that was done by State media which revealed that the store had been selling meat with expired freshness dates and had mislabeled ordinary chicken as free-range chicken which is more expensive. The same investigative report had also identified a Beijing branch of McDonald’s as having quality and food safety problems which is now being investigated by the local food safety authorities.

This situation is definitely a crisis for Carrefour because one of their stores has been shut down until they can reorganize their operations and meet quality and safety standards to the satisfaction of the local industry and commerce department.

The media report is a risk for the McDonald’s branch located in Beijing because they could be ordered to shut down as well if they do not act quickly to ensure that the investigation does not reveal any lapse in food quality and safety.

Carrefour is handling the situation fairly well as they have posted an apology for the incident on their Chinese language website. However, they did not answer any phone calls to address this issue with the media, which is where this crisis started for them. Also, by posting an apology only on their Chinese website, they are trying to minimize the publicity it gets to their other stakeholders and customers all over the world.

The food industry is handling the risk of food safety in China well. The regulatory bodies that have ordered Carrefour to be closed are setting precedence for other retailers to beware of similar consequences if they do not abide by food safety standards. Local authorities also shut down 13 branches of Walmart in the city of Chongqing for two weeks last October for selling regular pork labeled and priced as organic. Carrefour China should have been aware of this issue by doing an external scan of the industry they are in and using this as a crisis warning signal and should have ensured that they were following all food quality, safety and labeling guidelines. However, the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China have made statements saying that foreign firms are being singled out and unfairly targeted by local authorities. I don’t feel this is a valid point. If they weren’t breaking the rules in the first place, they wouldn’t give Chinese authorities the opportunity to close them down or “punish” them.  The reaction of the Chinese public is not mentioned in the article but I am sure that this will have a negative impact on Carrefour China’s sales and the amount of customers that they have, especially since this story was uncovered by the national media.

The rest of the food industry in China, whether retail outlets or fast food/fine dining restaurants should use this crisis to learn a lesson and ensure that they are avoiding a similar crisis by having strict quality control measures and ethical practices when it comes to labeling food. The Chinese authorities have been forced to take harsh measures and close certain stores/restaurants down because there is a large number of food safety violations that occur in China and this is their way of scaring the industry into putting the safety of its customers first. This is a way for the Chinese government to prepare and react to the food safety crisis that is currently occurring in China.

Personally, the mislabeling of meat as organic is not that big of an issue for me as I am okay with eating non-organic products. I feel this would be a big issue for some people that are very health conscious and choose to only eat organic. This would really upset them because organic products usually cost a lot more, so essentially the Carrefour has taken advantage of their food preferences without delivering the product that was promised. I am however, very concerned about Carrefour and McDonald’s selling food past its expiration/freshness date. As we have learned from the Maple Leaf case that occurred in Ontario, meat that is spoiled can have dangerous bacteria in it and can lead to serious health problems and death.

I would tell Carrefour, Walmart, McDonalds, and all of the other foreign firms that have branches in China to ensure that they are providing quality food that is safe to the public. I would tell them to work quality control measures into the process and ensure that a culture of safety and ethical behaviour is promoted within the staff. To the food industry in China, I would tell them that the government is taking the issue of food safety seriously so they should ensure they avoid a crisis such as this by making changes and improvements to their operations. To the government authorities in the food safety department, I would tell them to not only target foreign firms but also local firms so that they are protecting the public from harm in a more robust manner. To the public of China, I would advise them to only go to their trusted food providers and to avoid Walmart, Carrefour and McDonald’s for a while. These companies will only get the message to improve if they see that their bottom line is suffering. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Class Action Lawsuit Against the RCMP

Ex-Mountie’s lawsuit accuses RCMP of bullying, sexual discrimination

By: Terri Theodore

VANCOUVER— The Canadian Press Published Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012 9:02PM EDT

A former Mountie has launched a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP, hoping to purge the “toxic” attitude against women within the male-dominated force, her lawyer says.

David Klein says more than 100 current and former female members from across Canada are preparing to stand behind the lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment.

The suit was filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of Janet Merlo and alleges she was subjected to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination by male members.

The 19-year-veteran spent most of her career at the Nanaimo detachment on the east coast of Vancouver Island and said the harassment started in 1992, just months into her job.

The lawsuit alleges she endured a series of sexist comments, sexual pranks, derogatory remarks and double standards.

In one instance, the court documents say she told her supervisor she was pregnant and he yelled at her.

“You had better get your priorities straight. You are either going to have a career in the RCMP, or you are going to pop out kids your whole life,” the unnamed officer said. “I have a suggestion for you; next time, keep your [expletive] legs closed.”

RCMP media spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox wouldn't comment on the lawsuit, saying that because the case is before the court, a statement would be inappropriate.

The allegations in the court documents have not been proven in court.

Mr. Klein said the legal team has heard the same kinds of stories from women across the country.

“We've been contacted by dozens of women who are currently in the force and don't want to be part of the class action but have provided us with encouragement to assist us with the case,” he said in an interview.

He said another 150 current and former members have expressed interest in participating in the case.

“They want change. They want to change this organization from one that is toxic to women to one that is accepting of them.”

Mr. Klein said the organization has been dominated by men for over 100 years and while these women know it takes time to change a culture, that time has long past.

“Part of the problem is that the complaints women made were not taken seriously by the force. They need a new structure and it's something that has to occur top down.”

These women are hoping the lawsuit will spur a process that creates transparency and accountability within the force, he said.

Ms. Merlo said in a statement from her lawyer that it's too late for change for her.

“But I hope that this lawsuit will bring about some positive change for women who are still with the RCMP and women who join the force.”

Last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson vowed to address complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace when the allegations first came to light.

He agreed that all Canadians were concerned about the allegations.

Just before Mr. Paulson spoke out, former high-profile RCMP media relations officer Catherine Galliford came forward in November to say she was repeatedly sexually harassed by male officers.

A class-action lawsuit must first be certified before it's allowed to proceed. A judge must determine there is common ground between the complainants.

Mr. Klein said that process could take up to two years.

He expects dozens of women to join the legal action in that time. For now, Ms. Merlo is the representative plaintiff in the action.

The statement of claim says those involved knew or ought to have known that their conduct was the kind that would terrify a normal person, causing harm and humiliation.

The lawsuit outlines a long list of damages or injury including post-traumatic stress disorder, diminished self worth, attempted suicide, anxiety, feelings of guilt, insomnia and failed relationships.

“These injuries have caused and continue to cause the plaintiff and class members pain, suffering loss of enjoyment of life, permanent disability, loss of physical, mental and emotional health and loss of earnings, past and prospective,” said the statement of claim.

The lawsuit doesn't specify damages, but asks for exemplary and punitive damages and recovery of health-care costs.


There has been a class action lawsuit filed against the RCMP by over 100 women that are currently working or have previously worked for them. The lawsuit claims that they suffered mistreatment, discrimination and long term psychological damage caused by harassment from their male colleagues and a work culture that was “toxic”.

This is a risk for the RCMP and could become a crisis if the plaintiffs win their lawsuit. This is at the risk stage because it is not affecting their business continuity at this time. The RCMP is continuing to function on a day-to-day basis with its regular responsibilities.

However, the RCMP is not handling this situation very well as the article states that their media spokesperson refused to comment on the lawsuit because he felt that it would be inappropriate to comment on it while it is in the Supreme Court. The story also talks about previous complaints of sexual harassment that female employees of the RCMP had made to the organization which were not followed up on. This alludes to the fact that the RCMP was already aware of the issues and could have prevented this crisis from happening had they taken effective steps to change the culture before it came to a lawsuit. When the former “high-profile RCMP media relations officer Catherine Galliford came forward in November to say she was repeatedly sexually harassed by male officers”, the organization should have created a crisis management team and discussed this scenario and their action plan as there were clear signs that this may occur in the future. The RCMP should have also consulted their stakeholders, their employees, especially their female employees in order to resolve these issues and create cultural change within the organization. The article states that the class action lawsuit has asked for exemplary and punitive damages and states that the main goal of the plaintiffs is to help change the culture of the organization for the current and future female employees.

Therefore, the RCMP is not handling this situation well as they had many warnings that a situation like this could occur and were well aware of complaints from female employees of sexual harassment but did not take any action to address the issue and now it has become a risk and possible crisis for them.

Even though it seems like the RCMP was not prepared for this crisis they should at least take control of the situation now by developing crisis communications and identifying a spokesperson that will not be seen as someone that perpetuates the “egotistical RCMP officer” stereotype that is being perpetuated by this crisis.

Personally, I was surprised when I read this story. I did not think that this type of discrimination could occur in a developed and democratic country such as Canada. Considering that we are well into the 21st century now, I think discrimination and sexual harassment should be brought to the public’s attention and there should be a clear no-tolerance attitude adopted by the Canadian government and the public. I feel this case is the perfect opportunity to set a precedent of the Supreme Court’s justice for all, which includes women. Of course, I still think that the notion of innocent until proven guilty is valid and I only hope that justice prevails and if the RCMP does have this toxic culture that harms women then something should be done to eradicate it.

I would tell the RCMP to be transparent and accountable during this crisis to gain the trust of the public. If they know that these allegations are true, then they should admit it to the public and also tell them what they are doing to change this work culture to give women a safe work environment. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit should ensure that they are being honest about what occurred, whether they feel it will weaken or strengthen their case. If what they allege has occurred, honesty will get them more support from the public and hopefully a judgement in their favour from the Supreme Court. 

Sandoz Canada and possible drug shortage

Report alerted government to potential drug shortages four years ago

By Pauline Tam, The Ottawa Citizen March 26, 2012 6:53 PM

OTTAWA — The federal government ignored a warning by one of its own agencies about the potential for a nationwide medication shortage nearly four years before the current crisis caused by Sandoz Canada.

The warning, contained in a 2008 report by the federal Competition Bureau, flagged then-Industry Minister Tony Clement to the dangers of dwindling competition among some generic-drug makers.

According to the report, the lack of competition “could lead to shortages when winning bidders are unable to meet demand.”

The agency expressed particular concern about the three drug buyers for the nation’s hospitals, whose heavy reliance on a single supplier, Sandoz, resulted in fewer firms bidding to make the older “workhorse” drugs at the centre of the current ongoing shortage.

The dependence on a lone supplier “could lead to an erosion of the Canadian generic manufacturing base and a high level of concentration and a lack of competition among Canadian generic manufacturers,” the agency said.

A leading drug-policy expert pointed to the report as evidence of federal failure to protect Canadians from the current drug shortage.

“The Competition Bureau warned about this problem,” said Amir Attaran, a professor of health law at the University of Ottawa. “The minister didn’t do anything about it at the time. The danger is now here so the federal government needs to investigate.”

Attaran urged Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who oversees the Competition Bureau, to launch a public inquiry into the generic-drugs industry.

Sandoz is the sole supplier of more than 140 generic injectable painkillers, sedatives and antibiotics, or about half of all such medications used by Canadian hospitals.

In recent months, the company’s troubled plant in Boucherville, Que., has been plagued by quality-control lapses, a recent fire and reports of mislabelled drugs.

“How is it that Sandoz acquired such a big market share? Nobody knows because nobody has investigated,” said Attaran, who studies how trade laws affect a country’s access to drugs.

Paradis’s office declined comment, referring calls from the Citizen to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. However, Attaran insists Paradis has the power, under federal competition laws, to act.

The Competition Bureau conducted its 2008 study to determine why prices for generic drugs seemed to be higher in Canada than many other countries.

The report concluded that pharmacies weren’t passing enough savings onto consumers, even though, in most cases, there was ample competition among the country’s generic drug makers.

However, the report singled out the practices of the nation’s three bulk drug buyers — HealthPro Canada, Medbuy and Sigma Santé — as a cause for concern.

In an effort to get the best deal for taxpayers, the bulk buyers have in recent years pooled together the purchasing power of hospitals across the country and sought bids from suppliers willing to provide large quantities of generic drugs at the lowest prices possible.

However, two major consequences of such competitive tendering have been a limited number of large contracts for which generic drug makers could bid and tighter profit margins for the winning bidders.

As a result, many companies have simply abandoned the business, leaving just one or two players in the market, the 2008 study concluded.

Attaran, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health and Global Development Policy, said the federal government, not the bulk buyers, should have acted to prevent the current shortage. “It’s the federal government that can see what the market looks like and whether there is a de facto monopoly emerging that would create the risk of these shortages.”

Attaran’s view is disputed by Sheridan Scott, the former competition commissioner who oversaw the generic-drugs study.

Under the federal competition act, the industry minister or any six Canadians could file a complaint with the Competition Bureau, but only if there is clear evidence that a company engaged in anti-competitive practices that would be considered illegal, Scott said.

“You have to be complaining about price fixing or a merger that significantly lessens competition,” said Scott, a competition lawyer whose past clients have included Teva Canada, a generic-drug maker. “I’m not sure if the (current drug) shortages flow from the competitive dynamic.”

The Competition Bureau declined to say whether the agency has received any public complaints related to the drug shortage, or if an investigation has been launched. “By law, the bureau is obliged to conduct its work confidentially,” said spokesman Greg Scott.

Health Canada acts to stem drug shortage

OTTAWA— Health Canada has given market approval to two new generic drugs and one brand-name product that, it says, could help ease a nationwide medications shortage.

One of the generic drugs is ondansetron, an injectable anti-nausea medication that could be used to treat cancer patients suffering the side effects of chemotherapy. The drug is made by Accord Healthcare Inc., an Indian pharmaceuticals company with Canadian operations.

The other drug is rocuronium bromide, an injectable muscle relaxant used in anesthesia. Omega Laboratories Ltd. is the Canadian manufacturer of the drug.

Also approved is a brand-name drug called Aloxi, an anti-nausea medication made by Eisai Ltd., a Japanese drug maker with a branch in Canada.

Health Canada said it fast-tracked the approval of all three drugs to help health-care providers access replacement drugs they would normally get from Sandoz’s plant in Boucherville, Que.

All three companies applied to the federal drug regulator for permission to sell their medications before the start of the shortage caused by production slowdowns at Sandoz’s Boucherville facility.

Case Questions:
1.            What is the link to Crisis Management?

The story talks about a drug shortage in Canada that is caused by the lack of competition in the Canadian market. This is affecting the generic drug industry and patients that cannot afford non-generic or name brand drugs. The pharmaceutical company mentioned in the story is Sandoz Canada which is based in Boucherville, Quebec. This company has the largest market share for manufacturing generic drugs and is the only supplier of over 140 injectable painkillers, sedatives and antibiotics. The company has had quality control issues, reports of it mislabeling drugs, and a recent fire.

 2.            What stage of Crisis Management does the system appear to be at?

The possible impending drug shortage in Canada is a risk for patients and hospitals that purchase generic drugs. Sandoz Canada having a major market share of the generic drug industry is an issue for the generic drug industry as there is a lack of competition.
Sandoz Canada is in a state of crisis as its business continuity is being affected by the fire it had and other quality control issues.

Lastly, this is an issue for competition bureau who was warned of the issue in 2008 but did not do anything to deal with the issue which has now become a risk for the patients and hospitals that are supplied by Sandoz Canada.

3.         How well does the system appear to be handling the situation?

Health Canada has approved three new drugs in a speedy manner to combat the drug shortage. The competition bureau has refused to make a statement on whether they have received complaints about a drug shortage and if they will carry out an investigation on this matter. It seems that the competition bureau is avoiding the crisis that could occur and ignored the warning signs when they got the report in 2008.

The other three generic drug companies that have applied for approval of their drugs are taking advantage of this possible shortage that may occur. They have applied for approval when Health Canada is worried about a drug shortage which has sped up their approval process.

4.          What level of crisis preparedness does the system appear to have?

The system which is the generic drug industry in this case seems like they were not prepared for this risk even though there was a report in 2008 about this happening. Health Canada and the competition bureau should have approved other generic drugs earlier and ensured a competitive market so that the major market share was not owned by one company that could suffer a crisis and cause a drug shortage. Hospitals were not mentioned in this story, but they need to be prepared for Sandoz Canada not being able to provide them with drugs and develop a contingency plans so that they can provide care to their patients.

5.         What personal reactions/feelings does the description trigger in you?

This story makes me question whether the competition bureau was doing their job. The risk of a drug shortage could have been avoided if they had ensured that Sandoz Canada did not become so depended on by the hospitals and healthcare industry. Health Canada fast tracking the approval of 3 new drugs is also worrisome as it makes me question whether they did their due diligence in testing the safety of these drugs or if they just approved them because they feared a drug shortage.

6.         What advice would you offer to those involved?

I would caution Health Canada to consider the risks that they are taking on by fast tracking other drugs because of a fear of a drug shortage crisis. The Competition Bureau should do an environmental scan of other industries with these issues and have a crisis management team in place that can promote proper competition in these industries, especially in healthcare so that it doesn’t impact the health of Canadians. To Sandoz Canada, I would say that they are in a state of crisis and need to have a crisis management team in place that can develop crisis communications and have a spokesperson make a statement to their shareholders and patients that will be affected if their business is disrupted or goes bankrupt. I would encourage other drug companies to develop generic drugs and enter the market to ensure that there is good competition in an industry where there is a lot of potential for them to increase their market share.

Hospitals should develop a crisis management team in case there is a drug shortage and their major supplier Sandoz Canada is not able to provide them with generic drugs. They need to explore other avenues and other companies that they can use to purchase generic drugs for their patients. To patients, I would say they need to contact Health Canada and the competition bureau with their concerns if they are finding a shortage of generic drugs so that these two organizations can work for them in handling this risk before it becomes a crisis.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Robocall Scandal

Misleading robocalls went to voters ID'd as non-Tories

Pattern of calls points to party's voter identification database, opposition says

By Terry Milewski, CBC News

Posted: Mar 15, 2012 9:02 PM ET

Last Updated: Mar 16, 2012 9:27 AM ET

An investigation by CBC News has turned up voters all over Canada who say the reason they got robocalls sending them to fictitious polling stations was that they'd revealed they would not vote Conservative.

Although the Conservative Party has denied any involvement in the calls, these new details suggest that the misleading calls relied on data gathered by, and carefully guarded by, the Conservative Party.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand announced Thursday that he now has "over 700 Canadians from across the country" who allege "specific circumstances" of fraudulent or improper calls. CBC News examined 31 ridings where such calls have been reported and found a pattern: those receiving those calls also had previous calls from the Conservative Party to find out which way they would vote.

Tim McCoy of the riding of Ottawa-Vanier was one of those who complained to Elections Canada. He received a bogus recorded message pretending to be from Elections Canada — but he also had two previous calls from the Conservatives.

"They did call me back from the Conservative Association and ask if they could count on my support," said McCoy, who declined to pledge his vote. He thinks that's why someone tried to mislead him.

"It looks like a hijacking of the democratic process," he added. "I would like to know who made the call pretending to be from Elections Canada and I don't really care which way the finger points. I would like to know."

Elections Canada says it never calls voters at all. However, it is only now emerging that calls impersonating Elections Canada followed previous calls by Conservative workers asking which way voters were leaning. That suggests that the "Elections Canada" calls, which are illegal, came from people with access to data gathered by the Conservative Party, which carefully controls access to it.

Asked about that, party spokesman Fred Delorey had no comment and declined an interview.

Election day calls

The pattern of legitimate so-called "Voter ID" calls, followed by bogus "Elections Canada" calls, occurs in ridings across the country.

Charles Cochrane of Saint John, N.B., made it very clear to the Conservatives that they did not have his vote. Then, on election day, he said, "The phone rang and it was a recorded message. This is Elections Canada calling, your polling station has now changed." He checked. It had not changed.

From the outset, the Conservative Party leadership has insisted it had no involvement in these calls.

"The Conservative party can say absolutely, definitively, it has no role in any of this," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, calls claims to the contrary "baseless smears."

However, opposition leaders say the scheme could never have gone forward without callers having access to the Conservatives' proprietary database on voter intentions. Known as "CIMS," the database assigns a "smiley" face to supporters, and a "sad" face to non-Conservatives. Liberal and NDP politicians say it would make no sense to call randomly, since many of the voters misled would be Conservatives.

"Who had access to the database? Who wrote the scripts?" asked the NDP's Charlie Angus in question period Thursday. He did not receive an answer.

Lori Bruce of Fredericton thinks she has a good idea. She said the Conservatives knew she was not a supporter, and called her more than once — even identifying themselves while misdirecting her to the wrong polling station.

Voters from ridings across the country who spoke to CBC News describe receiving misleading automated calls with incorrect polling station changes after receiving Conservative Party calls. (Canadian Press)

Bruce said she received a call stating that it was "on behalf of Stephen Harper and Keith Ashfield for the Conservative party."

"At that point, he told me that my voting location had changed. I, at that point, said no, it's at the same location it always is."

Bruce then Googled the caller's number and found out it was the Conservative campaign office. Still, she wanted to be sure.

"I called the number back," she says, "and I just got an answering machine message, saying thank you for calling the Conservative Party."

Peggy Walsh Craig of North Bay, Ont., told a similar story — but received two separate calls.

"The first one was a few weeks before the election and it simply asked me one question and that was, was I going to vote for the Conservative Party — and I indicated no."

Only later did she get an anonymous second call, she said.

'Polling stations have changed'

"That was, it was Elections Canada calling and that they — due to higher than anticipated voter turnout, the polling station had been changed."

Once again, it hadn't changed at all. The same thing happened to Astrid Dimond of Mission, B.C.

Dimond said a caller told her that, "We're just phoning to let you know that the polling stations have changed."

Dimond knew better.

"And I said, no they haven't, and I hung up on her."

Dimond added that she tracked the call back to its source. The misleading call "came from the same number that all the other calls had come from, which I found out was the Conservative Party."

CBC News came up with many voters with similar complaints, including Saj Aziz in the riding of Mississauga-Streetsville, Carmen Leveille in Victoria, Gordon Webb in Guelph, May Beland in Willowdale and Susan Lapell in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's.

Aziz said a "research company" tried to find out who he was voting for as part of an "independent poll." When he declined to commit to the Conservatives, he was told that "a supervisor" would call him back. Then, he got a call from the Conservative party, trying to win him over. When that didn't work, he finally got a call saying that his polling station had moved. However, he'd already voted in the advance poll, at the right place.

In Guelph — where the robo-call scandal began — Gordon Webb says he made it clear to the Conservatives that he would not vote for them. He, too, got a misdirection call telling him to go to a phoney polling station. At least a hundred people showed up there and some of them angrily gave up on voting, blaming Elections Canada.

As for the next step, all of these voters say they want Elections Canada to get to the bottom of it.

"There definitely should be punishment," said Lori Bruce of Fredericton. "They should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

In North Bay, where the Liberals lost by just 18 votes, Peggy Walsh Craig said, "I care a lot about democracy and so I'm appalled that this is happening."

"It raises enough questions that it makes me wonder about the results here."


1.            What is the link to Crisis Management?

The story talks about a scandal that has been dubbed the “Robocall scandal” in which voters in Canada’s last Federal election received misleading phone calls that had an automated message stating that their polling station had changed. According to the story, only voters that had identified themselves as non-Conservative party supporters received these calls. Apparently, the only people that were called had received previous calls from the Conservative Party asking for support and had refused to support them.

2.         What stage of Crisis Management does the system appear to be at?

This is a crisis for Elections Canada because they are responsible for ensuring a fair and democratic voting process in Canada. It is a risk for the Conservative party as it calls their ethics during an election campaign into question. This is an issue for the Canadian public as it creates distrust in the Elections process in Canada. This is an issue for the other parties in Canada such as the NDP and Liberals because now they are left questioning the results of the last election and if they were cheated out of winning seats in the House of Commons.

3.         How well does the system appear to be handling the situation?

Elections Canada is in the process of investigating this scandal gathering data from the public to see how many Canadians received these calls.. The Conservative party has denied any involvement in this and the spokesperson for the party refused to comment on the situation. The NDP and Liberals are using this scandal as an opportunity to make the Conservatives look bad to the public and to push their own political agendas.

4.         What level of crisis preparedness does the system appear to have?

Elections Canada was not prepared for this crisis. They were caught by surprise when this story was published by investigative journalists. They need to put systems in place that prevent something like this from happening in future elections. The public expects Elections Canada to uphold the democratic process and this has harmed their trust in Elections Canada and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives seem unprepared for this crisis as they are refusing to comment on it. They should have a spokesperson and a crisis communication team to inform the public that they had nothing to do with this scandal and try to show the public that they are also deeply concerned by the fact that something like this happened. The Liberals and NDP should monitor their own practices during elections and do an audit of their campaigning practices during the last election to ensure that they catch any signals that could become a crisis for them as well.

5.         What personal reactions/feelings does the description trigger in you?

This story made me feel angry as a voter. This calls into question the very basic notion of democracy that comes along with living in a developed country such as Canada. Having been born in Pakistan, this type of corruption is not uncommon there during elections. To see that unethical behaviour is also being practiced in Canada by a major party is a bit disconcerting. It makes me distrust the electoral system and it slightly discourages me from voting in the next election because I am questioning the fairness of the process and it makes me wonder about what else is happening that the public is not aware of.

6.         What advice would you offer to those involved?

I feel in this situation, Elections Canada needs to take the lead in investigating this situation and they need to find the people or party responsible and make an example of them so that something like this is less likely to happen in the future. This is part of their responsibility as the regulatory body during the elections and it would also help the public gain back some of their trust in the electoral process. The public should pressure Elections Canada into investigating this situation and should also contact them if they were called by the automated messaging service during the election in order to help them find the culprits. The Conservatives should put together a crisis management team and go through scenarios of if they are found guilty in this scandal and prepare their crisis communication and have an effective spokesperson who has previous experience in dealing with crises and who is trusted by the public. This spokesperson should also be able to withstand the pressure that they will receive from the media if the Conservative party is found guilty in this scandal.

I feel the other parties in Canada such as the Liberals and NDP should do an internal scan to find any weaknesses or vulnerabilities that could turn into crisis for them and address them early. The best way to contain a crisis is to “fess up to it” and tell the public what they are doing about it to ensure it does not happen again.