Last Wednesday, the Ontario Auditor General released his report on the use of consultants by Ontario hospitals. The report contained the standard fare: ridiculously high expense report claims, the hiring of consultants without any competitive process, follow-on agreements without any supporting documentation, etc. But what was interesting about this report was a comment from the report that will probably never make it into the public's perception of the dealings. The comment was made in relation to the standards that were being used to evaluate the performance of hospitals – "At the time of our audit, the hospitals were not required to follow the government’s Directive on procurement." Yet the report was auditing hospitals against that government standard. So holding hospitals to a standard they were not yet required to follow seems unfair.
Unfortunately, this comment will be diluted by the screams for CEO firings and mismanagement of public funds. Of course there is room for improvement and some of the stories are so ridiculous you might think they are made up, but why would anyone want to become a health care leader in this province if this is the way that we treat the people running our hospitals? A call for more regulations in an industry where the leaders' hands are already bound by so many different rules, is acceptance that we are not really trying to recruit the best and the brightest for our Ontario health care system, just the ones that play best by the rules. Public procurement requires some common sense and some discipline, it does not require a long list of policies that provide no flexibility.