Worth every Penny?

Post by Mike Klassen in


Vancouver City Manager cited in a national scandal on health sector salaries. CanWest photo.

There are lots of opinions coming in about yesterday's National Edition front page story about Vancouver's City Manager Penny Ballem working for Ontario's Health Ministry at $3000 per day just prior to being hired by Mayor Gregor Robertson. Despite the attention being paid to this story across Canada, Vancouver's media seem a little slow to catch on to this scandal. Aside from minor stories in the Vancouver Sun and CBC News, no other local news organizations have picked the story up to date.

One has to wonder how the media would react if someone tied to the previous City administration, such as Judy Rogers or a member of Sam Sullivan's government, had billed taxpayers $30,000 for 10 days work without a contract at nearly $400 per hour. You could almost hear the howls of indignation across town.

Here's a question that our local mainstream media can ask of Ms. Ballem. If she were the Deputy Minister of Health today, would she have authorized this type of package she received as a consultant, at $3,000 per day without a contract?

Back east the media are weighing in. Today's Globe and Mail editorial offers this opinion:

More problematic was the way in which millions of dollars in untendered contracts were allegedly given to long-time friends and associates of Ms. Kramer and Dr. Hudson, a matter under review by a provincial auditor. They understandably wished to fast-track work on the project and were drawn to people with whom they had worked closely. But since the previous agency was disbanded in part because of high consultancy fees, eHealth's management should have been careful to ensure that every dollar stood up to scrutiny.

The voices of the people, those of us who paid these hefty sums to Ms. Ballem and her friends, are less restrained. Here is a sample of some of the letters and website comments with regards this story.

It is for certain that this ehealth project will cut into the medical budget and services will be reduced.

Doesn't ANYONE sit and wonder where there tax dollars are really going?

This is absolutely unbelievable. Look like this is an open season for gang of well-connected doctors,consultants,friends and relatives of eHealth executives to steal our money blind with absolutely no consequence.

It just turns my stomach. Every revelation and detail just makes me absolutely sick. Where is the accountability? How hard is it to set up a secure database?

$400 an hour / $3,000 per day for consulting services. I know someone will post here that that's not unusual, and so be it. But the same two words keep cropping up--transparency and accountability.

So, the wretched stench has now reached Vancouver's City Hall. Well, Mayor Gregor, how do you explain this ? You're too savvy a businessman not to have known about Dr Ballem's involvement. Yes, we really do expect an answer.

I would like to know the position of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Don't you think there are ethical and professional ethics for a doctor in Ontario? Any chance of professional misconduct?

E health Ontario paying a consultant $30,000 dollars for 78 hours of work and no signed contract required ! This is disgraceful. No wonder health care is so expensive in this province. The arrogant greed and mishandling of taxpayer money calls for nothing less than a police investigation.

Why can't we buy the developed software from BC and make the necessary changes to have it fit the Ontario system. The consultants would not lose out since they have already "fleeced" Ontario and their pockets are bulging!

I once worked at eHealth (SSHA). What a waste of taxpayers' money. Shutdown eHealth...

I'll put $5 million in my pocket, and with the other $5 million (yes, I said million - NOT BILLION) and 1 year I'll build a better medical records software system than these idiots will EVER come up with!

It has been my experience, that the $3000 consultants come in, talk to people, and put together a position paper based on what they found. In my view, this is the job of existing management.

In these times of financial distress for millions, the elites carry on with their Marie Antoinette behaviour, totally indifferent to the struggles of their fellow citizens.

It should be apparent that all connected with this scam should be fired without any severence immediately.

I applied to eHealth a few months ago for a contract position. I had no feedback. I guess it is because I wasn't bidding at $3,000 a day.

This does not just occur in Ontario. I am in the healthcare IT consulting business, and the kinds of abuse I've seen makes this pale in comparison in terms of how brazen it can be. It's a small community and there is a lot of back-scratching going on. I hope the news outlets start investigating every province's eHealth agencies to see what's going on.

This is just a sampling of over 130 opinions posted on the globeandmail.com. Visit the site if you want to read more. The message from taxpayers is clear though. This kind of abuse of our money must be stopped, and people who abuse it must be accountable.

UPDATE: Need a little eHealth comic relief? Read this story on the Toronto Star.


Sad times, everyone is greedy but there is just not enough for everyone.

Agree that this is a horrible mess and possibly a flagrant abuse of public revenue, but many of the commentators above are seeing just the exorbitant fees and not whether eHealth has done anything worthwhile.

One poster was correct that SSHA was struggling and not producing much, but eHealth has a better track record.

My point is that we can be outraged by profligate spending and cronyism, but let's not abandon eHealth for these reasons alone.

I fear that those wanting to terminate eHealth are hoping to completely besmirch the reputation of this public agency so that they can advocate private sector "solutions" (eg IBM takes over). Just more cronyism and the potential of a public system being privately owned; and that would mean we could say good-bye to accountability and transparency.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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