Hospital corruption could be hazardous to your health

By Robert Frank

Even without the high-profile allegations of egregious defalcation, the McGill superhospital currently under construction already has its own share of problems.

In theory, reducing the number of hospital beds isn’t a problem, because the facility is designed to focus on tertiary care. The concept is great: let hospitals do what they’re best at, and farm out the primary and secondary care to a cluster of adjacent medical clinical care facilities.

So, where are those additional facilities?

Not in the vicinity of the hospital that is nearing completion.

Indeed, its planners have, literally, turned their backs on the neighbouring, largely English-speaking stakeholders right beside it to the north in Westmount and Montreal’s Notre Dame de Grâce district.

Instead, they have oriented it to face the ravine to the south, to the point that it will made it hard for the neediest patients to get there via the Vendôme Metro and commuter rail station next door.

Forget about wheelchairs: The commuter facilities will impossible for the mobility-impaired patients to use, when the superhospital is slated to open in late-spring 2015, and no solution has been proposed.

Add to this mix are the millions that McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC) CEO Arthur Porter is alleged to have siphoned off for personal gain, in cahoots with Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

While Porter languishes in a Panamanian prison fighting a Canadian extradition bid, the superhospital whose budget he promised to balance has accumulated a $140 million deficit—forcing MUHC to fire 270 staff this year alone, including 40 nurses, despite rising demand for emergency, operating room and intensive-care services.

The problem is mirrored at MUHC’s French-speaking doppelgänger, the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM).

This month, CHUM cut loose Porter’s counterpart, CEO Christian Paire, after Quebec’s auditor-general sounded the alarm.

The Parti Québécois government nonetheless renewed Paire’s employment contract in August, months after the allegations of murky dealings surfaced and were reviewed by a parliamentary committee in Quebec City.

Aging population

Bottom line is that the health care system is bleeding more money to provide less service as demand is set to relentlessly ramp up, with Montreal’s English-speakers aging more rapidly than the remainder of the population, according to 2011 federal census results released earlier this year.

If nothing changes, it remains possible to convert Montreal’s existing English hospitals to fill the primary and secondary care void—or even keep them open to stem a potential shortfall in hospital beds.

Where the money would come from to do so, though, remains a mystery.

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