Health Minister Christine Elliott and her Deputy Minister Helen Angus were on the hotseat earlier this week. The two were testifying before the Commission into Long Term Care. A good portion of the questioning surrounded the fact that Ontario had apparently destroyed a laree stockpile of expired PPE, but had not made adequate provision to replenish it. She told commission counsel that she assumed the replenishment would take place automatically, but it did not happen because, just as the destruction was staking place, the government had introduced a centralized procurement system that slowed everything down.
scramble to find PPE
The minister said the procurement change, “came along in or about the same time, and that was a matter of several months. So, we were dealing with it. It is just that it got caught up in the centralized procurement program and a lot of work that was being done in that respect by other government ministries, so it wasn’t just the Ministry of Health.”
Deputy Minister Helen Angus defended the switch to centralized purchasing. “I’m the Deputy, and I care about 10 those things, but how we operationalize that through a centralized contract that leverages best price for health care providers I think is something that we would want to pay attention to going forward as opposed to having 6 or 700 long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals, all going to market and paying, you know, prices and getting quality that probably, you know, is highly variable.”
The Minister described a situation last spring where the Ontario supply of masks was down to just over a million units, when the stockpile should have had 20 million units. She detailed one episode where the government thought they had a line on 30 Million 3M masks. A price was arrived at and money way paid into an escrow account; but it turned out the supply never materialized. It was supposed to be in warehouses in the US, but it wasn’t leading to a wild goose chase to London and Singapore without success. Fortunately, the funds were not released.