Monday, August 17, 2009

Fire, ready, aim?

Too often, the news media shoot first and ask questions later and, in the glare of publicity, politicians join the firing squad.

We may be seeing this now as we learn more about the eHealth debacle in Ontario.

Bear with me, because this thing has more characters than a Tolstoy novel.

First we had the juicy, though petty, news disclosures about high priced consultants charging Choco Bites and other treats to the public purse. The perpetually envious, ink stained wretches in the journalism trade seem to think anyone who earns more than them must be on the take. The public, of course, hates high priced consultants on general principles, even though their expert work may result in a system that delivers substantial benefits and saves the same public hundreds of millions of dollars over a few years.

Sarah Kramer, eHealth Ontario's CEO, was sacrificed on the altar of public indignation, and the correctness of that decision was confirmed by the disclosure that other eHealth consultants had charged $25,000 for speech-writing services.

At that point, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty piled on, allowing that Kramer's appointment had been a mistake. That, we assumed, pretty much wrapped up this particular little melodrama.

But no. First, Kramer strikes back in response to the Premier's slam of her integrity. Her statement has a whiff of credibility as she describes the "strong, intractable resistance and outright hostility" she faced.

Then, highly respected neurosurgeon Dr. Alan Hudson, former eHealth chairman and more recently in charge of reducing treatment wait times in Ontario, quit. Hudson mouthed the usual platitudes about "time to do other things," but the lines in the news report that caught my eye were his defence of Kramer. Hudson said that his successor had done the best she could. "She is not a dreadful person. Any efforts to smear her are very misplaced."

An inquiry is underway. We await the dénouement.

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