A former Nova Scotia Health data analyst alleging he was fired for criticizing an emergency department wait-time prediction project became "disengaged" after his idea for the project wasn't chosen, a former manager says.
Jesse Yang wrapped up a Nova Scotia Labour Board arbitration hearing under the Public Interest Disclosure Wrongdoing Act on Tuesday, after arguing he experienced retaliation for raising issues about the project he said could affect public safety.
Yang said he escalated concerns he perceived about the project, verbally and in writing, over the course of a year before he was moved off the project. He was eventually fired.
Juan Encinas, who was Yang's direct supervisor, testified on Monday the former employee was never formally moved off that project and, instead, Yang just stopped contributing to it.
Encinas said Yang became unmotivated and stopped showing up to meetings after it was decided how to proceed with the project, Encinas said.
Yang headed the project when development began for the online tool in March 2022.
During the development stage, Encinas said Yang and another employee proposed different models for how the emergency department wait-time prediction project would operate.
The model suggested by the other employee, a co-op student, was eventually chosen. Yang's attitude toward work changed soon after that, his former manager said.
Yang testified last week he believed the data provided for the model was insufficient, and to predict wait-times hours in advance would be "feeding a prediction model with a prediction" — a single error would be amplified.
He said it was an ethical issue, but his supervisors said on Monday that Yang had only ever brought up a technical issue in the early stages of development.
Steven Carrigan, analytics director at Nova Scotia Health, also testified Monday. He said Yang never followed up with him after expressing his initial concern.
Yang became "disengaged" in the months that followed the decision on what model to use, Encinas said.
Encinas said he knew Yang had strong technical skills, so he tried to find other projects that would "re-engage" him, but his attitude didn't change.
Yang continued to criticize the emergency department wait-time prediction project months after he stopped working on it and had no direct knowledge of the work, Encinas said.
When Yang's contract expired at the end of March, Encinas said he decided he wouldn't be able to change the employee's attitude and decided not to renew.
The hearing finished on Tuesday after testimony from Cynthia Hamilton, who was a director of human resources at Nova Scotia Health during Yang's employment, and Matt Murphy, the health authority's chief data officer.
After the hearing, Yang said he's happy its done but he still thinks changes are needed to the emergency department wait-time prediction project.
"It's been with me for over two years. They tried to silence me, they tried to bully me, they tried to get rid of me and they did," Yang told CBC News. "Emotionally, I just feel relieved."
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