montreal’s super hospital suffering from deficit, scandals

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Hawkesbury, Canada

#1 Dec 19, 2012
real’s super hospital suffering from deficit, scandals
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Allan Woods
Quebec Bureau

MONTREAL—As it labours to build a “super hospital” that has been targeted by anti-corruption investigators, there is every indication that one of Quebec’s health-care jewels is itself in need of emergency care.

Just when the financial woes at the McGill University Health Centre appeared to peak at the start of the week with the admission of a $53-million deficit this year, things got worse.

Now the complex of six Montreal hospitals has a government-appointed minder, Dr. Michel Bureau, looking over its shoulder after a scathing review released this week discovered the deficit could actually hit $115 million. That’s almost 10 times more than what the MUHC is permitted to run as a deficit under provincial laws.

Part of the problem, the expert committee said in a report, is an unexplained 880,000 extra hours of unapproved overtime since 2009, while the number of procedures carried out remained steady. It also pointed to real estate transactions that sometimes used “hazardous” processes of shifting between numbered companies to get around the necessary authorizations.

One of those transactions was a property intended as an outpatient clinic that, only half built and lacking the proper approvals to proceed, is up for sale.

“Finances that are in poor condition always end up harming the core missions of an institution,” the committee said in its report.

Many of the problems date back to the term of MUHC’s former executive director, Dr. Arthur Porter.

Porter, by all appearances, has now left the country and set up in the Bahamas. He leaves behind an unresolved $300,000 lawsuit with his former employer and, according to reports, a police investigation into his management of contracts to build the new hospital.

The financial hole that has been uncovered only adds to the woes that have been unearthed at the $1.3-billion construction site in the city’s west end.

Most prominently, the health centre was in the news after Pierre Duhaime, the former head of SNC-Lavalin, the lead contractor for the super hospital, was charged with fraud and conspiracy related to payments that police say are linked to the firm’s winning of the MUHC contract.

Shortly after that, Yanaď Elbaz, a former MUHC employee in charge of planning, was revealed at the Charbonneau corruption inquiry to have met nearly a dozen times at a private Montreal club with Paolo Catania, a construction boss who stands accused of rigging government infrastructure contracts.

Taken together, the problems could have a much costlier effect on McGill’s reputation.

“I think people can make the difference between allegations, because currently that’s what we’re discussing — allegations in the media — and the excellent care they received in terms of health-care services at the MUHC,” Richard Fahey, a spokesman for the health centre, said in an interview earlier this week.

Fahey said the budget shortfall was a result of the extraordinary costs of operating six hospitals in Montreal at an annual cost of $1 billion as well as building a new one and preparing to move and merge services all at the same time.

“When you move from one house to another there’s your rent on one part and the rent on the other part and in between there’s the cost of moving,” he said.“That’s basically the challenge we’ve got right now.”
Tim

North Bay, Canada

#2 Dec 20, 2012

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