ORNGE you glad you don't need to be airlifted to hospital today?

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ORNGE you glad you don't need to be airlifted to hospital today?

The troubles at ORNGE, Ontario's air ambulance service that was spun off from the Health ministry as a non-profit organization should give pause to anyone who thinks that public organizations ought to operate more like a business. Give them the chance and they just might.

The salary of ORNGE's president rose to $1.4 million a year, executive perks and office redecorations were handed out while service to the public deteriorated. 


A good summary of it here: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1114052--ornge-air-ambulance-service-now-run-by-ontario-deputy-minister

More here: http://www.thestar.com/topic/ornge



I for one am very glad I didn't require an air ambulance today. Although with Mazza safely holed up 'deeply depressed and medicated' since the Auditor General had the audacity of releasing his income, if you're going to get sick in Ontario, now's the best time. No chance of him needing the helicopter to drop him off in cottage country these days so there might actually be a chopper available to help you or I.

Having worked there, I know of what I speak.


Yes, this broke when there were a few other outrage worthy stories breaking, and it probably didn't get the attention it deserved.

Yet another Ontario health care scandle. 

At the same time as this, London Health Sciences released the salary and perks for the outgoing CEO and there was a firestorm of outrage here.

Let's put it all together though.  Rember E-Health? the "Billion spent with little or nothing to show for it"?  And that didn't include the fiasco under the original attempt at E-Health headed up under George Smitherman when he was minister of Health, before he handed the porfolio off to a patsy.

And, we have the spector of Senior civil servants pay being hidden in Hospital boards that they didn't do work for, all to escape the salary caps imposed on them under Harris.

London Health Sciences can't be the only, or worst example of extravagant CEO renumeration.  But the Hospital Board there is unrepentant, and seems intent of repeating that fiasco.  It's going on all across Ontario, is my safe bet.

And, maybe less onerous on the financial end, but a great example of Hospital Administration culture, let us turn our memories back to H1N1, when the Province was asking that only children and pregnant women get vaccine, due to shortage.  Hospital Administrators jumped the queue.

Metaphorically-- though I wouldn't be surprised if there were cases of the litteral-- these administrators elbowed and pushed out of the way pregnant women and children in an emergency.

The money end of things seems like it's just about money.  But it is certainly true that this money means that some people died for lack of treatment.  It means that some people suffered longer than need be because resources that should have been allocated to them, were instead allocated to a bunch of later day Marie Antoinettes.

The insouciance of Politicians on this issue tells me that they are quite happy with the situtation, and are likely profitting from it.

Profiting from the needless suffering of others, many, like children, who cannot deffend themselves from the avarice of these people.


Things haven't changed much since the 1990s. No one wanted to have a head injury then and have to rely on air ambulance.

The Star 1992 wrote:
Ontario's $33 million air ambulance service is plagued by medical and aviation problems that may jeopardize the lives of some of the 16,000 patients it flies each year, a Star investigation shows.

In the past six months:

- A Sault Ste. Marie boy with a head injury died after a still unexplained mixup caused more than a four-hour delay in getting an air ambulance to fly him to Sudbury for neurosurgery.

- An air ambulance sent to pick up a critically ill Toronto man in New York lacked much needed medical equipment and nursing staff.

- A cardiac patient sweated and his nurse vomited in the muggy heat of an air ambulance flying out of Peterborough with an air conditioner left unfixed over a week.

- The condition of a cardiac patient deteriorated during a flight to Kingston because the air ambulance was not pressurized as required by the ministry. Rapid change in air pressure caused discomfort to the man. He died a few weeks later.

I remember the Gervais boy dying of his head injuries then. He died as a result of neglect and utter stupidity. They could have driven him to Sudbury with hours to spare less than the time it took the air ambulance idiots to get their shit together.


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

We have a reasonably good air ambulance service here, and it's busy. I've been airlifted out of here three times so far due to different things.


That's good to know, Boom Boom. Because they couldn't organize a sure thing here in Ontario without screwing it up.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

We've been relying on air ambulance services here for over fifty years, so the Quebec government has had time to get it right. Here in Kegaska, you are airlifted out by helicopter to the nearest airport, then an air ambulance takes you out. There's a regular air flight that works M - F that is used for non-emergency medical flights.



There's $25 million missing and now it seems an ORNGE executive lied when he claimed to have an MBA.






It gets stupider. Now it comes out that they couldn't be bothered to get clearance to fly in US airspace. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ornge-lacks-clearance-to-fly-over-us/article2353509/


So, what is to be done?

It may be that some people need to be shamed for their scandalous behaviour in the ORNGE affair--and perhaps prosecuted, too:

  1. For example, the management principals of both ORNGE itself and of the private, for-profit "arms" of ORNGE who scandalously pursued their self-serving interests without regard for the common good.
  2. What about the management principals in the private corporations who sold junk to ORNGE?  Buyer beware is a useful principle when making purchases, but corporations who knowingly sell junk to the public need their charters reviewed and, perhaps, revoked.
  3. Does the Minister of Health needs to be shamed into resigning?  Perhaps so, though we know that doing this will set back the progress of health care in Ontario: as Health Ministers of all political parties have learned, managing the Ministry of Health is not an easy job and taking over the job in a crisis involves delays in moving the health agenda forward.
  4. Finally, the Toronto Star has identified staff in the Ministry of Health and the government generally, some of whom are career civil servants, who had knowledge of what was going wrong at ORNGE, but didn't act to prevent it or correct it.  Why did that happen and what ought we do about that and about them?  And which of them, if any, not only condoned the private, for-profit initiatives of ORNGE, but actually recommended them?

More than shaming, we need to address the fact that, even in the face of impending cutbacks in health services, unconscionably high fees, salaries, benefits, and even bonuses are continuing to be paid to some people working in the health sector in Ontario, while others are being paid very low wages.  Decades of research have shown that poorer health outcomes for a society are closely associated with greater income inequality.  Capping and eventually rolling back those high-end fees and salaries and eliminating bonuses entirely is a good start to reducing income inequality in the health sector.  Increasing low-end wages is a good second step towards the same end.


Health Minister Deb Matthews says that George did it:


"The spin-off of the troubled ORNGE air ambulance service was done without competitive bidding thanks to an exemption sought by then-health minister George Smitherman, says Deb Matthews, Ontario's current health minister.

"Smitherman's move eventually enabled the assets to be handed over to an organization headed by Dr. Chris Mazza, who has since been sacked.

"'That was the decision that was made,' Matthews said Tuesday, adding that the deal was not subject to a request for proposals (RFP) from prospective operators of air ambulances in 2005.

"'There was an amendment passed in the Legislature that gave the minister authority to establish this.'

"Asked if the unusual move, which appears to contravene traditional government practices on bidding, was approved by Smitherman and was solely for ORNGE, Matthews said: 'Yes. George.'"

Smithernman defended his approach as follows:

"Smitherman said: 'An RFP would have been used if we were interested in outsourcing but we were not.'

"'Could you imagine the hue and cry if I had moved to put Ontario's Air Ambulance out to tender?' he told the Star from China.

"'In that model we could have had the Australians running the system,' said Smitherman, emphasizing he "inherited" Mazza from the previous Conservative government, which had begun consolidation of air ambulance services."

And what do the Conservatives say about all of this:

"As the scandal and OPP investigation into financial irregularities at ORNGE have shown, that plan didn't work out so well because there wasn't enough government oversight, said Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees."


SO, a question:  can there ever be enough government oversight to prevent determined principals of a publicly-owned but privately-run corporation from subverting the activities of the organization they control away from the pursuit of the common good towards the pursuit of their own personal gain?  If not, then the not-for-profit model is bankrupt.


Another sad story in the Toronto Star today:  ORNGE Boss got pay hike after telling board he had a job offer

Near the end of the story is this revelation:

"Beltzner was paid $200,000 a year as chairman [of ORNGE]. The person who replaced him as chair does the job as a volunteer."

 As my mother often said:  "Ya' don't need a gum to steal."

These high rollers have no shame.  Best we relieve them of their ethical shortcomings by capping their salaries and, thereby, removing temptations that they are obviously incapable of resisting.


[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2013/07/15/toronto-ornge-ambu...'Operational issues' a factor in 8 Ornge deaths: coroner[/url]