Frank Klees

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ORNGE now being investigated by OPP Feb 16, 2012 report on
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ORNGE now being investigated by OPP

TORONTO — Ontario Provincial Police have been called in to investigate ORNGE, the province's troubled air ambulance service.

"The OPP is conducting an investigation into possible criminal activities on the part of ORNGE air ambulance service," police spokeswoman Cathy Bell said Thursday.

The police probe was launched at the request of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, she added.

A source said the ministry asked police to look into "financial irregularities" at ORNGE on the advice of forensic auditors who were examining the agency's books.

The police probe is being lead by the Criminal Investigation branch, which takes on major cases, Bell said.

The criminal investigation is the latest blow to ORNGE, which receives about $150 million a year from the province to operate a non-profit air medical rescue and transport service.

It's been under a cloud of controversy for months over high salaries, questionable spending and business practices.

There were reports in recent days that the agency loaned its former chief executive officer Chris Mazza $1.2 million over the last two years, on top of his generous salary.

Health Minister Deb Matthews cleaned house at the agency last month, replacing Mazza -- who was paid $1.4 million a year -- and the entire board of directors. ORNGE was also ordered to shut down its for-profit companies.

The agency said no severance payments were offered to Renzella and Mazza, who was paid more by Ontario taxpayers than any other public sector worker last year.

The clean sweep came after the auditor general and the Ministry of Finance sent in forensic auditors to take a look at ORNGE's books.

Ian Delaney, chairman of Sherritt International Corp., was appointed as chairman of the new ORNGE board on the recommendation of the governing Liberals.

Other new members include former Progressive Conservative attorney general Charles Harnick of Counsel Public Affairs, Patricia Lang, former president of Confederation College and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre CEO and president Barry McLellan.

The new board was appointed Jan. 25, just a day after Ornge axed 18 middle managers and shut down its charity organization, J-Smarts, which educates children about cottage country safety, in a bid to reduce costs.

The ministry's emergency health services branch is also investigating 13 incidents related to air ambulance transports, three of which involved deaths of patients.

 

McGuinty Gov't Ignored Warnings of Turbulence in Air Ambulance Organization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 12, 2012

February 2, 2012 Statement from The Hon Deb Matthews "Dr. Chris Mazza , president and CEO, and Maria Renzella, Chief Operating Officer, have been terminated and ORNGE has advised us that no severance has been offered,." see news

Toronto Star editorial January 13, 2012 By David Holland

New day at ORNGE

"If one warning wasn't enough, a second came in April 2011 courtesy of Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees. He was even more direct in the Legislatue about his concerns with the air ambulance service. 'How many health care dollars transferred to ORNGE are being used to subsidize parts of this business that are for-profit?' he asked . 'Can (the Premier) tell me that? '

The problem with ORNGE wasn't so much that its executives were thinking of ways they could turn a profit. It's that they forgot who they should be doing it for: taxpayers." click here for full comments

 

The efforts of Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees to expose questionable business practices at Ornge, the organization responsible for the province's air ambulance services have resulted in the firing of the CEO and the entire Board of Directors.

Minister of Health, Deb Mathews confirmed the purging today and announced that the role of CEO would temporarily be filled by Deputy Minister Ron McKerlie who will have the responsibility of restoring confidence in the scandal-plagued organization.

" What is frustrating about this, is the fact that I called on the Minister to investigate the questionable business practices of this organization on three different occasions as far back as April of last year,” said Klees.  "The Minister ignored those warnings and defended the organization and its management. In the meantime, millions of precious healthcare dollars have been siphoned off to a web of for-profit companies to the benefit of a select few, including the $ 1.4 million salary to the CEO.”

The firing of the CEO and the Board of Directors came within 48 hours after Klees held a press conference at Queen's Park on Monday afternoon, in which he once again called on the Minister of Health to step in and take control of the operations of Ornge.  Klees also called for the establishment of an All-Party Select Committee of the Legislature to conduct hearings on Ornge.

"The committee should be given the authority to call witnesses and those witnesses must be protected against reprisals," said Klees. "There is a long list of current and past employees who are ready to testify to expose the scandalous dealings of this organization."

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* Transcript of Klees' Jan 9th Press Conference statement and video is available at

http://www.frank-klees.on.ca/Newsroom/2012/ORNGEseeingREDJan9_12.htm

April 2011 Question to the Minister of Health on ORNGE

Article by Frank Klees, MPP January 17, 2012
ORNGE: Greed, Deceit and Government Mismanagement Click Here