Are we really seeing red over Ornge?

Considering this is budget day in Ontario, Ornge might just be last week’s topic. At that time, the opposition at Queen’s Park was in full cry for the head of Health Minister Deb Mathews. It was not until the Provincial Auditor brought us his report that anyone really knew how bad the situation is with that air ambulance service.

And all the auditor could tell us last week was that it was so screwed up, he could not figure it all out. All he knew was that the Ornge people had been playing fast and loose with the government’s money and rules, they were hardly forthcoming about their transactions and the province might have lost some money in the process.

But what more can Deb Mathews do? She has already fired the people involved. She has ranted and roared at those who are left. The Ministry of Health is a huge portfolio and she can hardly do a hands-on job with all the parts. What she probably needs more than all the shouting in the legislature is for her to shout at her bloated staff—they are obviously doing a lousy job.

She cannot keep using the excuse about the size of her Ministry. She certainly has enough staff to have an overview at the critical points. They let her down. The political staff particularly has to be sensitive to what can cause trouble for their Minister. They have to use similar smell tests as the Auditor General. If something does not pass the smell test, they have to find out why.

There are too many financial corpses around Ontario’s Health Ministry. Deb Mathews knew that when McGuinty gave her the job. It was probably her ego that prevented her from saying ‘No thanks.’ Taking over when she did, that close to the election, meant that she had little time to batten the hatches. She could hardly trust her predecessor David Caplan’s choice of political staff.

The opposition think she should take the bullet for Ornge, the way Caplan took the bullet for eHealth. The difference was he deserved it. He brought fewer skills to the task of Minister than his mother did back in the 1980s and she did an abysmal job.

But in the Health Ministry of today, there are different needs. We have the technologies today to lower the cost of health care and it is not happening. Why? We have people who cannot get a family doctor. Why? We have hospital boards with CEO’s being paid huge salaries and they are no more efficient. Why? We have district health units that are just adding more bureaucracy. Why? And the list goes on and on. Your trials have only begun Deb Mathews.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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