Royal Ottawa: Is the private operator trying to push costs onto the public payroll?

Approaching its five-year anniversary, a new wrinkle has developed between the private developer and the public tenant over the cost of dieticians at the Royal Ottawa Health Centre.

The hospital has twice tried to advertise a position that should, under its contract, belong to Carillion, the P3 operator.

The blurring between public and private has been a continual problem at the mental health hospital.

Now the private consortium is trying to offload one of its costs – for an administrative dietician – on to the hospital payroll. The question is, if Carillion is supposed to be providing this service, why is the hospital being asked to essentially pay twice for the same service?

Having originally listed the position as an administrative dietician, the hospital corrected the situation by re-advertising for a charge dietician — a position that works directly with patients to recommend appropriate diets. However, the job description is still mostly that of an administrative dietician, which is responsible for working with food services in preparing the diets.

It appears the hospital and Carillion have simply changed the title to duck responsibility for the costs.

The Royal Ottawa has had continual food services problems since moving into the privatized facility in 2006. Part of the problem has been the lack of appropriately credentialed staff in food services, which is the responsibility of Carillion.

It is not the first time there has been a dispute over costs at the hospital, managers claiming after the first year that the lack of access to the services contract means they are continually asked to pay for costs our of their clinical budgets.

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre opened October 27, 2006 claiming to be on time and on budget. However, staff quickly complained to the Ministry of Labour that they had been moved into the building prematurely and faced significant safety risks as construction continued around them.

After delays with the other P3 – Brampton’s William Osler Hospital – there was a significant push to validate the privatized option by showcasing the Royal Ottawa. There was also one other incentive to move in early – the private consortium would not be paid until the premises were occupied.

The ROMHC was originally designed to hold 284 beds at a cost of $95 million. It opened as a 188 bed hospital costing $146 million under the P3 arrangement.

In 2010 Carillion’s international operations posted almost $300 million Canadian in reported profit, an increase of 24 per cent over the previous year.

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