Tag Archives: Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

Royal Ottawa — prosecutions fly below the radar

The Ministry of Labour inspectors have significant powers when it comes to enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

What’s difficult to discern is where the dividing line is between issuing orders and prosecuting an employer for violations of the Act.

After months of investigation into seven complaints and 77 incidents at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, in May the Ministry issued 15 orders to address issue around workplace violence.

Given how big the investigation was, how many incidents had taken place, and how many workers were interviewed, we were stunned that no charges were laid. By contrast, Ontario Shores was separately prosecuted and fined $37,500 for an incident around a worker injured cleaning and replacing a ventilation hood.

Last week we got word by a very convoluted route that the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre was facing prosecution on three counts stemming from a single incident of workplace violence in June 2012.

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Jim – it’s you who loves P3s, not us

The Honourable Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance
House of Commons Centre Block Building – Room 435-S
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Jim  –

We get it. You love public-private partnerships, or as most like to call ‘em, P3s. The sound of big business rushing in and signing great big multi-million and multi-billion dollar contracts with governments to privately finance, build, maintain and sometimes operate hospitals, court houses, schools, bridges, transit systems – why it just makes your ol’ leprechaun heart sing.

Y’er getting all that “dead” corporate money moving, right?

We know these days that investors are nervous of even their own shadow, so governments need to give them sure-fire money makers at the public’s expense. It’ll buck ‘em up.

Paying it all back, well yeah, those are details best left for another day. What the heck – our children use this infrastructure too, so why shouldn’t they be prepared to pay for it over a generation or two? And if they can’t, there are always their children to pay after them. And their children’s children. Hold on, we’re getting a bit dizzy here.

With the over-inflated costs of these projects, we can hear the big profits clinking from here, even with our windows closed. And at the union we have good windows.

Here comes our beef:

On Tuesday you told a panel that the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre P3 was “incredibly successful” and that the “unions love it, the nurses love it, the physicians love it, the patients love it.”

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Event: P3 Privatization of St. Mary’s and the Kingston Psychiatric Hospitals

Economist David MacDonald and Ontario Health Coalition director Natalie Mehra will be among panelists speaking at a public meeting in Kingston October 26 on the privatization of proposed replacement for St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital and the Providence Care Mental Health Services (formerly the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital).

The redevelopment of the hospitals is forecast to cost $350 million as a public-private partnership (P3) – a sum the town hall organizers say could be as much as $100 million more than had it been developed under a more traditional public procurement model.

To date the government has refused to release any of the background documents justifying the decision.

Three consortiums were shortlisted for the redevelopment at the end of August. Among them is a consortium involving the same facilities management company that presently runs the Royal Ottawa hospital in Ottawa (see link below for OPSEU’s Risky Business report on the Royal Ottawa P3).

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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.

P3s deserve to be an election issue even if nobody wants to talk about it

“We have a responsibility to taxpayers … to build schools at a reasonable cost. That absolutely rules out P3s.” – Jane Purves, Nova Scotia Education Minister (PC) 2001 

As the coming Ontario election unfolds, it is unlikely the opposition parties will go after the dozens of public-private partnership (P3) deals signed by the McGuinty government.

The darling of governments of all stripes who want to move debt off-book, P3s have been a costly boondoggle across Canada. At a time when the public is bracing for cuts to public services, the lack of debate over the squandering of billions on such enterprises is sadly missing.

The Maritime Provinces were early adopters of so-called “public-private partnerships” to build and operate public infrastructure.

The Confederation Bridge betweenPrince Edward Island and New Brunswick was one of the first mega projects developed under the model, while Nova Scotia embarked on an ambitious program to privately build and operate public schools.

The Nova Scotia government of Russell McLellan lost an election over the P3 issue after the news media jumped all over scandals involving costly public schools built and operated under such contracts.

Secrecy, or what the corporations like to call “proprietary information,” has kept watch dogs and even government itself from prying too closely into these deals.

Remarkably, Rosalind Penfound, Nova Scotia’s deputy minister of education said of the deals in 2010: “The P3 contracts don’t allow us the ability to audit some of the provisions of the contract, so that significantly hampers some of the monitoring that we can do.”

In PEI the Federal government put strict conditions on the privatization of the Confederation Bridge project. The Federal subsidy was not to exceed the cost of its support to the former ferry service, and that tolls to the public must not exceed charges from the former ferry crossing. These rules did allow for toll adjustments based on 75 per cent of the consumer price index, and the Federal subsidy was also indexed.

In 1988 the auditor estimated the ferry subsidy amounted to between $26.7 million and $36.9 million. The subsidy to the P3 consortium was set at the high end of that scale — $35.3 million annually. In addition the Federal government also incurred direct costs: $41 million for highway improvements leading to and from the bridge, $46 million for project development, and $15 million for regional development in PEI and New Brunswick.

While P3 promoters boast they bring projects in on time and on budget, it took 10 years to discover there was a $330 million cost overrun on the $1 billion bridge.

That overrun, combined with higher than expected maintenance costs, may mean that the rules may change, a bailout may have to take place, or the Federal government may have to assume ownership – and related financial obligations — of the bridge.

The bond ratings agencies lowered Strait Crossing Ltd – the P3 operator – to a BBB (lower medium grade) in 2010.

This is what the Dominion Bond Rating Agency had to say a year ago: “Limited operating flexibility is left to weather potential future shocks or a protracted period of soft economic conditions, which prevents DBRS from restoring the stable trend on the rating prior to its discontinuation.”

Discontinuation? Yes, the company actually asked to be taken off the bond rating service.

Two major projects, two major failures.

Ontarians deserve to know what’s in all the McGuinty P3 deals for hospitals, court houses and other infrastructure development. The Ontario Health Coalition and a consortium of  unions  – including OPSEU – spent more than two years in court to get most of the details of the William Osler Hospital deal– the first privatized general hospital to open in Canada.

What we found was a terrible deal for the public. The Ontario auditor later confirmed what we already knew – the Osler cost nearly $500 million more than had the project been undertaken as a traditional public procurement.

With impending delays and high costs associated with the Osler, the government decided to make a showcase of the Royal Ottawa Hospital when it opened as a P3 in October 2006.

The project was touted as on time and on budget, but neither was true.

The hospital was originally scheduled to open in July, not October. Even in October the Royal Ottawa wasn’t ready. Fire alarms didn’t work. The wireless environment was so dysfunctional the hospital later spent $1 million hard wiring the building. Magnetic doors failed. Personal alarms were absent, putting staff at risk. To make a point about the efficiency of P3s, the hospital was occupied anyway.

The Royal Ottawa was originally planned in 2004 as a 284-bed facility at a cost of $95 million. Instead it opened as a 188 bed facility that cost $146 million.

This election, politicians of all stripes should be asked about these privatization deals.

The auditor has already warned us that health care is facing considerable austerity under the Liberal plan. The Tories are offering even less in funding.

Can we really afford to squander billions more on these boondoggles while our hospitals and community-based health providers struggle? The William Osler and Royal Ottawa are only two out of more than 150 hospital corporations in Ontario. There are more than 30 hospital P3 projects in various stages of development. And that’s just health care.

This needs to be an election issue, even if all three parties are reluctant to talk about it.