Public Accounts Statement
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Public Accounts Committee:
It is my privilege to be here today.
I cherish the principle of accountability and I support the idea that
having more information in the public domain makes for better
So I will gladly share the knowledge that I have.
The context that I have is the 2003 – 2008 period.
My motivation and actions during this period were to address well- documented risks to health and human safety.
So even here in the midst of this firestorm where it’s clear ORNGE had lost it’s way we should be careful not to forget that Ontario possesses one of the world’s most advanced medical air transport operations, with
well trained, dedicated frontline staff.
It’s a very expensive and essential element of our health care system that tries to equalize access to care across a wildly large and difficult terrain. Because we have this medical air transport capacity well
integrated into our trauma system it saves many lives.
But the real trauma is the abuse of public trust perpetuated upon the people of Ontario.
I take responsibility for not having detected this risk and therefore entrusting Dr. Mazza to build an integrated medical air transport system.
Aided and abetted by a strongly credentialed Board, stories have emerged of a hazy shell game seemingly designed to leverage a public asset for personal gain. If true, this was an abuse of the public trust and I
regret not having had the prescience to eliminate such risks.
The better news is that we have a good system that is well resourced and with the steps taken by Minister Matthews a sense of purpose has been restored.
I can’t tell you who missed their opportunity to act at first evidence that Ornge had gone rogue. The performance agreement had multiple mechanisms where the contract could be cancelled. This coupled with
the Ministry role as paymaster represents ample power to bring a rogue entity to heal.
The report commissioned in 2008 by the Ministries of Health and Finance and prepared by Meyers, Norris Penny LLP, which should be made public, provided a series of recommendations to the Ministry.
From what I am told the Ministry’s response to this 100 plus page report may have been lacking.
When I left the Ministry I was not aware of any accusations and from the moment I left there about 1400 days ago, I have paid Ornge little mind. Had I known that there were swirls of scandal I most certainly would not have taken the risk of bringing an external visitor to Ornge as I did last fall.
When I became Minister in 2003 we did not have an integrated system despite repeated calls from Coroner’s inquests and the media alike.
Additionally a 2003 Accreditation Review conducted by the independent U.S. based Commission of Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems recommended a system overhaul.
A particular concern they sited was the absence of a clear line of authority amongst dispatch centre, base hospital and air ambulance operators responsible for service.
We fixed that.
Other Coroner’s reports spoke to the risks being posed by the Ministry’s inability to validate the safety and maintenance of the fleet of private aircraft then contracted to do medical air transport.
Today Ontario has the most modern and efficient fleet just about anywhere.
At crucial critical care transition points we implemented ORNGE staffed land ambulances to enhance the continuity of care for Critically ill patients thus improving their survival prospects while saving money for
several municipal land ambulance services.
Sometimes that transfer, across Ferries, through traffic, or over long distances can take a long time and when a situation is critical minutes really, really matter. This is especially true in the North.
I want to provide just one example where a service enhancement was implemented in order to save lives. To buy some of those crucial minutes…
Put yourself in the position of being the family of someone who just sustained a life threatening injury in a snowmobile accident in Hornepayne and transferred to Sudbury Airport aboard ORNGE, now set to endure the lengthy transfer from Sudbury Airport to Sudbury Regional Hospital.
Would you feel better knowing that a highly specialized Ornge Critical Care Team was on hand to get your loved one into the specialized hands of the hospital?
I know that politics is always in the air here and more so in a minority parliament.
But I do ask that you consider just how your report will influence confidence in Ornge for the stricken hiker, first nations dialysis patient, car crash victim who lays wondering if his next breath will be his last.