TORONTO - The ORNGE air ambulance spending scandal is not
rooted in the Ontario government’s failure to get the information it needed
to monitor the agency, but in the government’s decision to privatize the
service in the first place, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union
in response to auditor general Jim McCarter’s report yesterday.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, said no one
should be surprised at the fallout after the Liberals privatized the air
ambulance service in 2006. They gave hundreds of millions of taxpayers’
money to the non-profit organization that paid exorbitant salaries to
executives and set up for-profit companies to reap huge returns.
“ORNGE executives used public dollars to increase their
private wealth, and they gave Ontarians less service for higher cost,” says
Thomas. “Privatization does not work. It has never worked. And it won’t work
the next time the government tries it as it plans to do with ServiceOntario
Roxanne Barnes, elected chair of Ontario’s 40,000 direct
government employees, says the Ministry of Health spent about $93 million a
year to deliver air ambulance services. It paid 20 per cent more during
ORNGE’s first year. Costs continued to go up and service declined, the
auditor general’s report shows.
“In the four years that government funding went up by more
than 30 per cent, the number of patients ORNGE transported went down 7 per
cent,” says Barnes.
Thomas says it’s always bad business to take public services
out of the hands of public providers.
“With public services delivered by professional public
sector workers, we get more service and better quality for lower cost. What
reasonable person can argue with that?”