Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sunshine, lolipops and Ornge

No, that's not a spelling error in the title; this posting is about Ornge, the Ontario government's pet air ambulance service, and government spending in general.

An air ambulance service, like any other service, is a business. There is a business model for the company, there are employees, equipment, management, in fact all the things that businesses are required to do to offer good service, and still try to make a profit. In the real world of business there are also competitors that might offer the very same service. In that same real world, customers, people that need or want to use that service have choices. Customers often choose the company that offers the best service at the most affordable price. In this way, the business practices, salaries, and profits of companies are best regulated by the free market.

Yes, its true, that unfortunate moment you personally may need an air ambulance, will likely not be the best time to shop around for one. But a regional trauma centre or hospital, if allowed, and on behalf of its patients, might be able to contract an air ambulance service from a list of available competitors. Presumably the hospital would choose the most reliable and affordable transport methods to serve its needs, including air ambulance, to best serve potential patients/customers.

But not on Ontario!

In Ontario one person and a staff, are charged with the task of selecting THE air ambulance service for everyone, in fact overseeing the entire health care system.

Currently that person is Deb Matthews, the Minister of Health and Long term Care. Here is the overview for this Ministry from the government website: The ministry is responsible for administering the health care system and providing services to the Ontario public through such programs as health insurance, drug benefits, assistive devices, care for the mentally ill, long-term care, home care, community and public health, and health promotion and disease prevention. It also regulates hospitals and nursing homes, operates psychiatric hospitals and medical laboratories, and co-ordinates emergency health services. And of course Ornge. This is a daunting task to be sure. Imagine, this Minister, and her staff are responsible for seeing to the medical needs, wishes, and desires of everyone, everyone in the province; there is no other choice, if its medical, its them. That is a weighty responsibility, I would have trouble sleeping.

Let me stay focussed on Ornge. Ornge has been in the news lately, not surprisingly when there is only one such service available, with no competition to regulate their business practices, there may be a tendency toward corruption. Ornge is a classic case, if you don't know the story read this, and this.

In a few days the budget for the Province of Ontario will be made public. Just six weeks ago, the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services (Drummond Report) was made public. The Drummond Report recommended 362 ways, that Ontario's spendthrift McGuinty Liberal government, might curtail spending, and balance its budget by 2018.

I say spendthrift because the release of Ontario's "$100,000 per year club" shows that members of this vaunted Sunshine List has increased by 10% in one year, this, while the drones of the public sector have had their salaries frozen. The Liberals have no control on spending. Why should they? It's not their money to begin with, they don't care.

Back to Ornge for a moment, just to show how corrupt it had become, the former CEO Chris Mazza was fired in February 2012, when it was discovered he made $1.4 million in 2011 and he wasn't even on the Sunshine List last year.

What is the moral of this story? First, no single person or group best knows how to care for your medical (or any) needs, and second, when they try, they invariably screw up.

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