Deb Matthews

Deputy premier of Ontario, and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Sounds pretty responsible, eh? Perhaps not.

Here you can find the usual Wikipedia entry on Deb Matthews. It doesn’t say much about current drug problems nor the slow motion train wreck that was ORNGE ambulance service.

Let’s have a quick overview of Deb Matthews’ oversight of ORNGE. Here you will find that she didn’t read an audit on ORNGE (which she requested) for a year.

Here you will find these words:

“As minister, I take my full share of responsibility. I have acted quickly to fix the problems identified,” Ms. Matthews said.

Unfortunately you will also find these words:

Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees tabled a document dated June 2011, months before Ms. Matthews stepped in to dismantle Ornge, which sounded a host of alarm bells about the organization’s finances, including a loan receivable of $4.3-million in 2010-11. “This is a concern as Ornge is not in the business of advancing monies and, these are taxpayer dollars that have been lent,” states the memo, labelled “Confidential Advice to Minister.”

ORNGE’s problems are manifold. There is a suggestion of payments under the table in both directions with regard to the famous Augusta Westland helicopters. Here you will find these words:

Rainer Beltzner left a legislative committee stunned when he said he saw documents in January that appeared to show that Ornge was under no obligation to pay for weight upgrades for its new helicopters, but did so anyway.

and these words:

Even though the board made it clear that they were to approve any major amendments to the deal with Italian helicopter firm AgustaWestland, they were completely unaware of the $6.7-million payment, he said.

Remember that amount: $6.7 million CAD. That number comes up again here, where it appears the OPP are investigating why AugustaWestland paid an ORNGE company $6.7 million for very little work – apparently a marketing services contract whose deliverables were found via Google Search. To give a small quote:

The daughter of ORNGE ’s chairman and the girlfriend of founder Chris Mazza did the small amount of research that brought the air ambulance’s for-profit arm a $6.7-million payment from an Italian helicopter firm.

In addition, the helicopters, reportedly specified by Mazza, aren’t well suited as air ambulances.

Dr. Bruce Sawadsky, medical director for ORNGE, checks out the new multi-million-dollar AW 139 helicopters and finds their cramped medical interiors are a “high risk environment.” Tough to do CPR. Hard to prop up a patient with difficulty breathing. Too long to load and unload a patient. Equipment malfunctions.

All of this went on during Deb Matthews oversight.

More recently, there have been questions about drug mis-prescriptions for seniors, particularly that nursing homes prescribe antipsychotics for dementia patients. This despite clear labels that such ‘off label’ prescribing can be fatal.

The minister’s comments came after a Star investigation found provincially regulated nursing homes are drugging helpless seniors despite warnings that the powerful antipsychotics can kill elderly patients suffering from dementia.

What do you suppose our Provincial Minister of Health and Long-Term Care had to say? She said this:

“Let’s remember, it’s doctors who prescribe these drugs, not the government,” Matthews told reporters in a heated scrum at Queen’s Park.

Now it’s time for some dumb questions, eh?

If doctors prescribe drugs, and surgeons perform operations, and Mazza runs ORNGE, and helicopters get bought with strange extra payments, is it obvious to all of us that that lets our Minister of Health and Long-Term Care off the hook? for everything?

Is it not the minister’s responsibility to know what’s going on? To propose legal restrictions and to enforce both legal and moral fairness to both the ill and the taxpayer?

Have you ever seen a weaker cop-out? From a politician with a weaker reputation of being hands-on in her/his responsibilities?

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