Friday, November 13, 2009

Ontario's deputy health minister resigns!

One of the last remaining figures in Ontario's eHealth controversy has resigned just weeks after he was grilled by a legislature committee about the $1 billion Ontario has spent so far on electronic health records.

Deputy health minister Ron Sapsford, who was appointed to the post in 2005, headed the largest bureaucracy in the Ontario government with a budget of more than $40 billion. He also oversaw the creation of eHealth and served as its interim CEO last summer.

Deb Matthews, the minister of health and long-term care, acknowledged the resignation Friday but didn't provide a reason for Sapsford's departure.

Instead, Matthews thanked Sapsford for his "dedicated commitment to improving the health care for Ontario families."

"As deputy minister of health, he has helped make measurable progress in the speed and quality of health care available to Ontarians," Matthews said in a statement, also crediting Sapsford for helping improve access to front-line health care.

The resignation is effective Jan. 3.

The opposition parties had demanded Sapsford quit for his role in the eHealth scandal, especially after David Caplan was forced to resign as health minister.

Scathing report
Caplan resigned last month, just one day before the auditor general released a scathing report detailing how little value Ontario got for the $1 billion spent trying to create electronic health records.

Former eHealth Ontario CEO Sarah Kramer and board chair Alan Hudson also resigned their positions in June.

Top officials from scandal-plagued eHealth, including eHealth Ontario chair Rita Burak and Sapsford, were called before the legislature's public accounts committee in October to explain the agency's use of outside consultants.

At that time, Burak said taxpayers deserved an apology for the scandal, which involved awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars in untendered contracts to consultants, but stopped short of actually providing one.

She also told the committee eHealth had trimmed the number of consultants to 286 in September from 385 last spring, and promised that number would be reduced to 160 by next spring.

Sapsford said then he didn't see any reason why he should resign, and noted the government was looking into only one contract, valued at $1 million.

He also took issue with opposition claims that all of the money spent so far on electronic health records has been wasted.


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