"Peggy" Ballem pal Hudson latest to fall at eHealth Ontario

Post by Mike Klassen in

1 comment

Toronto Star takes a hard look at consultant contracts
The Toronto Star features this graphic as part of its ongoing reporting on the eHealth scandal

Dr. Penny Ballem might not be a household name here in Vancouver despite the best efforts of some, but people on the streets of Toronto are certainly getting to know who she is thanks to media coverage of the eHealth Ontario scandal. The interweb is still boiling with coverage about the $30,000 she received for just over a week's worth of work for the troubled bureaucracy.

If you thought for a moment that this eHealth Ontario scandal was over, note the latest fall guy on this file. Alan Hudson, Chairman of the Board of eHealth, was given the boot by Premier Dalton McGuinty yesterday. The 71-year old neurosurgeon and former hospital president was taken down over the embarrassment that Ballem and other colleagues created for the Ontario government.

It was not only the high cost of these consultants, it was a host of problems including the lack of contracts, questionable billings, delays and lack of tangible results, as well as nickle-and-dime spending on meals and snacks on top of $3,000 per day fees. CityCaucus.com reported that Penny Ballem requested a $35 daily meal allowance in addition to receiving $375 per hour. Other consultants stiffed taxpayers for lattes and chocolate chip muffins.

These actions at eHealth have put consulting into a hard light, and forced Ontario's Auditor General Jim McCarter to take a closer look. It's widely felt that not only that these outrageous fees do not suit today's economic times, but also that money spent on consultants like Dr. Ballem is money not going into frontline care.

Dr. Alan Hudson
Dr. Alan Hudson

Dr. Hudson was reportedly Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's hand-picked choice to modernize the province's medical records. Hudson was part of a clique that included Ballem and his protégé Michael Guerriere, the founding partner of Courtyard Group. Courtyard were awarded nearly $2 million in sole sourced contracts from eHealth.

More here on the Hudson/Guerriere/Ballem connection from the Globe and Mail:

Courtyard Group, a consulting firm with ties to Dr. Hudson, was awarded three contracts totalling just under $2-million since last October, according to freedom of information documents obtained by The Globe. Dr. Hudson and Michael Guerriere, a managing director at Courtyard, worked together at University Health Network. Dr. Guerriere billed the agency $3,145 a day while temporarily serving as its vice-president of strategy, the documents show.

Peggy (sic) Ballem, a physician and former deputy health minister in British Columbia, was paid $30,000 for just 78 hours work last fall, the documents show. Dr. Ballem bowed out last December after she was appointed city manager of Vancouver.

It's not surprising that another group with an enormous sense of entitlement to the public's money has fallen. What is still to be seen is which dominos are next to fall? So far the eHealth Ontario scandal has had a lot of victims.

We still wonder, when did Penny Ballem know that she would be Mayor Robertson's pick for the new City Manager? According to sources Gregor Robertson and Mike Magee are the ones who know, and they should come clean. Don't hold your breath that they will.

UPDATE: Toronto Star interviews Alan Hudson, who is "devastated" by the troubles at eHealth and explains he resigned so the organization could "move on."

Hudson, who headed the board as a volunteer, said he was shocked to hear some consultants at eHealth were making $2,700 to $3,000 a day and that one billed for a $1.65 tea at Tim Hortons and Choco Bites for $3.99.

He goes on to explain that all hiring was done by former CEO Sarah Kramer, not the board.

1 Comment

Alan Hudson is a good man and an honest man. He has done some very good work for the people of Ontario. But this time, he was let down by the people he hired. In my opinion, Ms Kramer should have been fired for cause. Not because of anything nefarious, but as the senior executive of eHealth she showed abysmal judgement in her agreement to the daily rates asked by the consultants. Those rates are way beyond the norm. And she clearly has an element of greed about her as she demanded a large bonus at her hiring time. And I am surprised at Mike Guerriere's lack of judgement when asked for and accepted more than $3000 as a dailly rate. Mike is a bright guy, but something wrong happened at eHealth. Their work is not rocket science. And they are not trail blazers because all of this has been done many times before. Ontario is just slow off the mark.
Time to complete the house cleaning.

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