The provincial Ombudsman has followed up on his damning report on the privatized, non-ambulance patient transfer industry.
The Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government privatized the patient transfer industry at the turn of the century, moving the work over from Emergency Medical Services (ambulance services).
Two years ago, however, the Ombudsman and the CBC reported major problems in this newly privatized industry, including threats to patient safety and working conditions.
On July 16, 2013, the Ombudsman followed up on his earlier report, stating that “Two years after promising to regulate the non-emergency medical transfer industry to protect the hundreds of thousands of patients transported annually in these ambulance-like vehicles, it (the provincial government) has yet to do so.”
In a special section on patient transfer the Ombudsman noted:
"In 2011,the Ombudsman completed an investigation into whether the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care were adequately protecting the public who use non-emergency medical transportation....The investigation found significant problems, including poorly trained staff, inadequate equipment and lack of infection control. The Ombudsman shared a working draft of his findings with the two ministries in May 2011. In June 2011, the then Ministers of Transportation and Health and Long-Term Care jointly announced that legislation would be introduced to regulate the industry. Unfortunately, there has been considerable delay in introducing legislation, in part due to the calling of a provincial election just prior to the ministers’ announcement in June 2011, and the prorogation of the subsequent session of the Legislature in 2012. The Ombudsman pursued this issue with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which was to lead the process of regulating the industry. The Ministry began consultations with stakeholders, with a commitment from the Minister that regulation would follow. In late 2012, the Minister received a report and recommendations arising from consultation. That report remains under review by the Minister. SORT (Special Ombudsman Response Team) continues to monitor this issue and pursues regular updates from the Ministry. The Ombudsman also discussed it with the present Minister of Transportation in May 2013." (My emphasis.)
It remains unclear what sort of 'consultations' the Ministry was involved in over regulation of the private patient transfer industry. Or who they consulted.
Moreover, the report and recommendations to the Ministry (revealed by the Ombudsman above) on patient transfer regulation remain secret. There's no word on when, or if, they will be revealed.
According to the Toronto Star, the Minister of Health and LTC responded to the new Ombudsman report by promising, again, to regulate the patient transfer industry by this time next year. (Notably, two years ago the government promised to legislate “at the earliest opportunity”.)
Just shortly before the public release of the Ombudsman's new report, the Minister of Health and LTC strongly endorsed the restructuring of the private patient transfer industry in the South West LHIN. The restructuring would designate a sole patient transfer provider for the LHIN.
Photo: extranoise, Berlin ambulance.