An Ornge helicopter takes of from the helipad at the Owen Sound hospital on Wednesday July 18, 2012.
Credits: JAMES MASTERS/QMI AGENCY
We heard from the province's auditor general about the disgraceful mismanagement at the out-of-control air ambulance service.
We winced with embarrassment when disgraced former CEO Chris Mazza titillated us with his account of hiring his waterski instructor/waitress girlfriend, who quickly rose through the ranks of Ornge to become a vice-president.
It was shameful, outrageous and disgusting.
But it wasn't deadly. No one died, we were assured, because of this boondoggle.
Chief Coroner Dr. Andrew McCallum initially reviewed some deaths and, in his first report, concluded none had been "materially" affected by issues pertaining to Ornge.
McCallum announced Wednesday he's taking another look, appointing a review panel.
"A systematic approach has now been developed to identify all known deaths from January 1, 2006, to June 30, 2012, where there are relevant concerns. A panel comprised of experts in air ambulance, pre-hospital care and emergency medicine is being established to comprehensively review all such cases," he said in his news release.
This comes as no surprise to Newmarket-Aurora Tory MPP Frank Klees. He's been sounding the alarm for a year.
He says Health Minister Deb Matthews has been hiding behind the coroner's initial assessment.
"She used a statement made by the coroner a couple of months ago as a political shield," Klees said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
"What I'm encouraged about now is that clearly the coroner is refusing to allow himself to be used as a political shield," he said.
In a news release, Matthews said she welcomes the coroner's review.
Several months ago, Klees released a confidential cabinet document outlining scores of incidents involving Ornge.
In several cases, the interior of the choppers - designed by Ornge - would not permit paramedics to perform CPR on patients as they were transported. In several cases, patients later died.
Here are excerpts from that report:
North Bay, August 2011: "Patient in respiratory distress could not be transported by air ambulance as Ornge's new helicopter interior design cannot allow for care to patients in distress (pt cannot sit up during flight)."
Parry Sound, 2011: In a motorcycle accident, "the single primary care paramedic onboard the helicopter informed local land EMS that due to the interior design of the Ornge helicopter, he would be unable to perform CPR on pt. Patient was transported by land ambulance and died en route."
London, July 2011: "Ornge failed to launch for an on-scene response to a motor vehicle collision as Ornge Communications Centre was waiting to see if the 'patient was hurt enough.' The helicopter was never launched in response. One person deceased."
June 2011: Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) complained about an incident. "Claim of inability to provide emergency air ambulance interfacility transport to London for critical child. Patient deceased."
Correspondence to the ministry from WRH president and CEO stated: "Our concern centres around Ornge's inability to provide appropriate timely service in this critical situation."
Another complaint from WRH about a 2009 incident said Ornge was unable to provide qualified paramedics during an air ambulance transfer from Windsor to Toronto's Sick Kids' Hospital.
"Hospital staff were required to accompany patient and were stranded in Toronto."
March 4, 2012: A complaint from Sudbury's Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) said for more than half the night shift, "Two requests for an on scene response were denied as there were no paramedics on duty."
When we can't find an air ambulance to transport a critically ill child in a wealthy province like Ontario, it's time to take a second look.
The auditor general told us the financial cost of Ornge.
Now it's time for the coroner to uncover the human toll, the lives lost because the McGuinty government couldn't - or wouldn't - rein in the out-of-control monster that was once an air ambulance system.