Government & policy
eHealth chair resigns, defends board
TORONTO – Dr. Alan
Hudson (pictured) resigned in mid-June as chairman of the
embattled eHealth Ontario agency. He has been replaced by Rita Burak, a
former high-ranking civil servant in the Ontario government.
eHealth Ontario has come under public fire for the high salaries of its
executives, for awarding untendered contracts to consulting firms and
providing lucrative compensation to out-of-province consultants.
Dr. Hudson, who served as volunteer chairman, says he and the board of
directors didn’t authorize CEO Sarah Kramer’s $380,000 annual salary or
her bonus of $114,000 after five months on the job. Instead, said Dr.
Hudson, the Ontario government hired Kramer as an order-in-council and
authorized her salary and bonus.
Ms. Kramer’s compensation at eHealth, along with other financial payouts
publicized by the CBC and other media outlets, appeared as
‘over-the-top’ to the public, especially in a time of recessionary
They triggered a scandal for the Ontario government, leading to the
resignation of Ms. Kramer earlier in June, along with the resignations
of several other executives at eHealth Ontario.
Dr. Hudson and the eHealth board were widely criticized in the press for
having hired Ms. Kramer as CEO, as well as for overseeing untendered
contracts to firms such as the Courtyard Group and Accenture. These
contracts totalled some $5 million in a five-month period.
However, in an interview with the Toronto Star, Dr. Hudson says the
eHealth board didn’t approve such contracts, but that Ms. Kramer
arranged them to quickly get projects up and running.
He noted the urgency of producing results at the newly formed eHealth
Ontario agency, which was created in the fall of 2008 after an
investment of $647 million since 2002 in its predecessor, Smart Systems
for Health Agency, had produced little impact on the delivery of
healthcare in the province.
“There was pressure from the government to get the deliveries out the
door,” Dr. Hudson said to the Toronto Star.
The public was also rankled by reports of Alberta-based consultants
earning $2,700 or more per day and filing expenses for snacks such as
tea, soft drinks, cookies and muffins.
Dr. Hudson said he was shocked to learn that consultants were making
$2,700 to $3,000 a day and that one billed for a $1.65 tea at Tim
Horton's and Choco Bites for $3.99.
The runaway spending and billing at eHealth Ontario, which has made
national headlines, sent the government of Ontario premier Dalton
McGuinty reeling. In accepting the resignation of Dr. Hudson, McGuinty
said new rules will be in place going forward at government agencies.
The hiring of consultants will now have to go through tendered bidding.
There will be no more sole-sourced contracts. And consultants will no
longer be able to bill for out-of-pocket hospitality, incidental and
food expenses, McGuinty said.
Meanwhile, the province’s auditor-general is reviewing spending at
eHealth, and is expected to report as early as September. In addition,
the consulting company PriceWaterhouseCoopers is also conducting a
McGuinty said health minister David Caplan will be keeping his job. “I
continue to have confidence in Mr. Caplan,” he said.
For his part, Dr. Hudson said he had taken on too many responsibilities
to provide adequate guidance. He is also head of Ontario’s Wait Times
Said Hudson: “If I had to do it again, I would have dropped the one and
gone over to the other. I had an awful lot on my plate.”