Minister of Health Ignored Ornge Warnings

QUEEN’S PARK – Ernie Hardeman, Oxford MPP, said that the Auditor’s report showed the Minister of Health received multiple warnings about the activities at ORNGE but chose to ignore them costing taxpayers money and putting transport patients at risk.

“The auditor’s report showed that the Minister of Health did nothing to address the problems in ORNGE despite the fact that she and her office repeatedly received warnings and information on their activities,” said Hardeman. “This is an organization that has received $700 million of taxpayer’s money, incurred another $300 million in provincial debt and is responsible for people’s lives. The lack of oversight and action is inexcusable.”

Today Ontario’s Auditor General released a special report on ORNGE air ambulance and related services. The report detailed a number of instances where the Minister of Health received warnings about the inappropriate dealings at ORNGE and the impact it was having on the effective delivery of air ambulance services, including a letter alleging there were two sets of books and a briefing for Health and Premier’s office staff.

Among other things the Auditor General found:

  • ORNGE purchased a building for $15 million which they sold to one of their for profit companies. ORNGE then rented the building back, paying above market rents, which allowed the for profit to obtain $24 million in financing and generate a $9 million profit for the owners – ORNGE senior management and board members;
  • ORNGE purchased 12 helicopters for $148 million then installed seating for 12 people in two of them which meant there was no longer enough room to transport patients;
  • ORNGE used $500,000 that was intended “to provide improved patient care and facilitate the education and training of transport medicine professionals” to purchase two custom motorcycles;
  • ORNGE received government funding to transport an estimated 20,000 people by land ambulance but only transported 15% of amount; and
  • ORNGE borrowed over $300 million which is included in the province’s debt and is being paid through ongoing Ministry funding.

“The Ontario PC and NDP Caucuses joined together and voted in favour of calling on the McGuinty government to appoint a special Select Committee to investigate the scandals surrounding ORNGE,” said Hardeman.

Previously in the Ontario Legislature Minister Matthews said she would support the Legislative committee to investigate ORNGE if it was the will of the Legislature. Both Minister Matthews and Premier McGuinty were absent for the vote on the motion on an all party committee and for question period today.

“For the sake of quality patient care and frontline healthcare delivery, we need to put the best interests of Ontarians first,” said Hardeman. “Deb Matthews needs to resign and Dalton McGuinty needs to launch an all-party investigation so we can get to the bottom of this mess.”

– 30 –

For more information, contact:
Ernie Hardeman, MPP Oxford
(416) 325-1239