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I apologize in advance for the length of this message! But, there will be a lot of discussion about hospitals and health care spending in the next few days and I want you to be fully informed about the issues.
Today the Auditor General will release his report on Consultants Use in Selected Health Organizations. Staff from the Auditor General's Office came to 16 hospitals – including University Health Network – three Local Health Integration Networks and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. They were asked to look at "systems and procedures in place to ensure that consulting services were acquired and managed with due regard for value for money and sound public-sector business practices." This report will be tabled in the legislature today and will be the topic of much discussion and debate. If you would like to read the full report, it will be on the Auditor General's website.
Everyone at UHN works to provide full value for every dollar we receive from Ontario taxpayers. We work in the health care system, but we also pay taxes and we are all committed to the sustainability of our publicly funded health system. Your senior management team has read the report and we are in complete agreement with the recommendations made by the Auditor General. We are comfortable that the recommendations that have been made today have been implemented at UHN.
Chief amongst these recommendations is the full adoption of the Ontario government's purchasing policies and guidelines which have now been in place at UHN since April 1, 2010. Hospitals have not been required to comply with these policies prior to that date, so the report documents issues of 'non compliance' against a way of working that was not yet in place in hospitals during much of the time reviewed by the Auditor General. That does not mean that each hospital didn't have guidelines and policies about purchasing and UHN has always had policies in place which are posted on our intranet. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that if you apply a new standard to past practice, that you find non-compliance. What is important for UHN is that, now that the new standards are in place, that we comply and that we exceed the standard wherever possible.
I think it is also important to point out that the use of consultants is appropriate in a variety of circumstances. We use consultants as a way of purchasing expertise unavailable within UHN or to buy additional support when we have a time limit on a task that needs to be carried out. A review of our practice in this area shows us where we can improve our tendering processes and the evaluation of the work that consultants have done. We have put these processes in place.
It is my understanding from reading the papers today that I will be responsible for publicly reporting my expenses and I will do so once we receive the guidelines and templates from the Ministry which describe how expenses should be reported. In a previous Straight Talk I talked to you about my salary and, when my expenses are available on line, I will make you aware of where they are located and offer to answer any questions about them, as I did with my salary. I am fortunate to work for this organization and to work with people who are committed to our patients, the students we teach and the research that helps save lives.
We have discussed the findings with the Board of Trustees and we will use the process recommendations in this report to further tighten the way we tender and report on those contracts. Board members have described the report as a 'gap analysis' between what was in place within the health care sector and what now exists after April 1, 2010. It is our responsibility to ensure that UHN meets or exceeds the provincial standard and we will measure up.