Wednesday, October 7, 2009

eHealth, eScam, e-i-e-i-dough

When the health care tax was introduced five years ago, we in Ontario were told that it would be used to improve front line services as well as to reduce wait times significantly. One of the most obvious ways to cut times was with the introduction of standardized and electronic health records so that a patient's file would be instantly accessible by any physician, nurse, pharmacist or paramedic anywhere in the province -- thus cutting on errors such as drug interactions.

Over a billion has been spent for absolutely nothing, and today Ontario's Auditor General, Jim McCarter, dressed down Team Pointy Head for letting this "eHealth" agency get out of hand. To be fair, Dalton McGuinty, Ontario's Premier, has apologized and the Health Minister, Dave Caplan, was sacked and Deb Matthews appointed in place; but the fact is a billion dollars is gone. Up in smoke. Some would suggest even the money was embezzled or at least misspent on frivolities -- and this is four times worse than AdScam was and involves only one province that was supposed to set the benchmark for other provinces to follow -- perhaps to the point records could have been made available to health pros nationally and ensuring true reciprocity for the disparate health systems we have right now.

eHealth should have been set up by now. Instead, electronic health records in Canada are at least five years away (except for one province, Alberta); meanwhile, most countries in Europe have already made the transition -- the NHS in the UK will be all electronic by next year, for example; with the savings being put back into primary health care, where it should go. And in the US, Veteran's Affairs has successfully implemented a system, thus improving a form of state run medical care and so has the Bureau of Indian Affairs (are you listening, Limbaugh and Beck???).

So what's our freaking problem?

There is a provincial election in two years time, and at the halfway point this week McGuinty has not shown the kind of accountability that he accepted in his first term. He knew breaking the no new taxes promise in his first term hurt, but he skated around it by making the issue of public education the priority for the 2007 election -- or more correctly, the opposition defined it for him. He then broke another promise this year by harmonizing the sales taxes, and by all industry indications prices won't drop by the 7.2% average we were initially told, but by less than 1% -- and we're now learning that having the HST applied on required services will actually make things so much worse; that is, we'll be paying more than just an extra eight dollars per hundred on such things as cable TV, utilities and legal fees. 
Add to that the scuttlebutt we heard for a time, that the sticker prices we see might incorporate the taxes so what we saw was what we paid. Remember the confusion this caused in the early 1990s, when some stores included the GST in their prices but still had to charge PST. Price incorporation might be accepted in Europe, but here we expect to see a sticker price before taxes then decide whether it's worth the trip across a provincial boundary or even to the States where there's a lower tax rate. McGuinty totally mishandled that discussion too.
I'm all for dedicated health taxes as long as it's being used properly. I would support a harmonized tax as long as the money goes towards deficit reduction -- and once that is eliminated, into social services.
What I am not for, is wasting public money on personal spending sprees, and not being accountable when the chips are down. If the election was tomorrow and not two years hence, McGuinty would not be getting my vote for a third term. We need leadership, now, especially during a recession. We're not getting it, and today's report is just one proof of that.

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The Red Fox said...

So McGuinty apologized,combine that with the OLG scam (twice),the do nothing shedding of Ontarios entire manufacturing base ,no new tax scams,the HST sellout in a recession scam and we get an apologie.Bob Rae was absolutly brilliant compared to this do nothing corrupt liberano thief.I feel so much better knowing that when the liberals screw me out of 3 $ for a lottery ticket or piss away a billion $ that McGuinty apoligises.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that with eHealth legally they took (who said stole) 1 billion out of public funds, and they will not be prosecuted for it. Now they have that 1 billion they took in their personal bank accounts, sharing it with their families, building better future for their families, and all on STOLEN money. These people are what is wrong with this country!!!