In the 1942 movie Casablanca, Captain Renault, in need of a quick reason to close Rick’s café to impress his German guests, indignantly says “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” At that moment the croupier presents Renault with his winnings, which he quickly shoves into his pocket.
The government’s reaction to hospital lobbying is a little like that.
Timed to coincide with the auditor’s report on the use of health care consultants, the new Public Sector Accountability Act proposes new rules to clean up the procurement process, improve transparency and restrict the use of paid lobbyists by public entities, such as hospitals.
In the auditor’s report we learn that of 16 hospitals examined, half had paid lobbyists to press the government for more funding.
While the government fulminates about hospitals using public money for lobbying activities, the question is, given they were the target of the lobbying, how could they not have known before now?
Or was the health minister’s response a little like Captain Renault’s” “I’m shocked, shocked to find that professional lobbyists have been talking to me!”
If 50 per cent of hospitals are using lobbyists to call for more funding, it also raises an additional question. What does that say about the faith Ontario hospitals are placing in their own leadership at the Ontario Hospital Association?
Tom Closson, President and CEO of the OHA spoke October 6 to the Economic Club of Canada. He said: “It is clear that, without any significant tax increases, any plan to re-balance the provincial budget must involve a much lower rate of expenditure growth for health care.” This is despite the fact that core funding for his membership has recently lagged behind the rate of inflation. Closson went on to speak about how hospitals need to work more efficiently, claiming there were the equivalent of 16 hospitals full of patients that could be effectively served elsewhere.
Meanwhile, it’s now clear that at least half those hospitals were banging on the door at Queen’s Park looking for more money. The second week of November the OHA gathers for its annual HealthAchieve conference. This year it may be far more interesting to listen in to chatter in the corridors than what takes place on the podium.