Government & policy
Deputy health minister steps down in
TORONTO – Ontario’s
deputy health minister, Ron Sapsford (pictured), a key figure in the
eHealth imbroglio and one of the most highly paid civil servants in the
province, has announced his resignation from the bureaucracy.
Sapsford is the latest departure after the eruption of the eHealth
Ontario scandal, a series of revelations about the province’s largely
failed $1 billion investment to create electronic health records.
He also made headlines in October after the Toronto Star publicized his
nearly $500,000 a year salary was funnelled through Hamilton Health
Sciences to circumvent government pay guidelines for senior bureaucrats.
The eHealth scandal emerged in May when it was revealed that eHealth
Ontario handed out nearly $5 million in untendered contracts to
high-priced consultants who billed nearly $3,000 a day.
Last month, Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter reported the province
had spent $1 billion of taxpayers’ money, with little return on
investment, in the 10-year effort to bring health records online.
The eHealth Ontario scandal has led to the departure of a number of key
figures in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s second-term government. David
Caplan quit as health minister in October. EHealth Ontario CEO Sarah
Kramer left in June, as did Dr. Alan Hudson, the eHealth board chair who
was McGuinty’s healthcare guru and problem-solver.
This month, eHealth Ontario let go two vice-presidents, Robin Tonna and
Deanna Allen, in a restructuring bid to save about $250,000, said
interim CEO Rob Devitt.
As deputy health minister for the past five years, Sapsford oversaw
eHealth Ontario’s predecessor, Smart Systems for Health Agency – which
was launched in 2002 and lambasted by critics in 2007 for spending $647
million with little to show for it. The agency was dissolved last year.
Sapsford was behind the electronic health programs branch in the health
ministry and the creation of the eHealth Ontario agency.
He recently told a legislative committee looking into the eHealth affair
that he was not aware untendered contracts were given out until he read
about it in the press. He also disputed that $1 billion was wasted. He
argued there was value obtained for the money spent, but he did
acknowledge “some mistakes were made in the management of procurements”
on a couple of projects.
Sapsford, a former chief operating officer at Hamilton Health Sciences,
was appointed deputy health minister in March 2005. A grandfather who
holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Toronto and a
masters in health administration from the University of Ottawa, he also
is a director on the boards of Canada Health Infoway and the Canadian
Institute for Health Information.