Update: see previous posts – January 28, 2012 Doctor Chris Mazza on Extended Indefinite Medical Leave – Needs to Answer Million$ of Questions, January 28, 2012 ORNGE Transports Patients In Dangerously Designed ORNGE Helicopters, January 26, 2012 ORNGE – ORNGE Foundation Charity Shut-Down and Closed, January 26, 2012 ORNGE – Has Appointed a New Board of Directors, January 24, 2012 ORNGE – 18 Middle-Management & Charity Program Cut, January 22, 2012 ORNGE architect George Smitherman brokered meeting between Korean officials and ORNGE, January 16, 2012 ORNGE – “The Jig is Up”, December 29, 2011 There Are Some Red Faces at ORNGE, December 27, 2011 ORNGE Hires New Spin Doctor, December 26, 2011 Doctor’s Salary Quadruples In Four (4) Years to $1.4 Million, December 20, 2011 Wanted: Paramedics for Emergency Flights on ORNGE’s Air Ambulance Helicopters, December 6, 2011 Orangeh Gonna Tell The Taxpayers How Much of Their Money You’ve Spent on Yourself ?
Dr. Chris Mazza and other top ORNGE executives were trying to sell international medical insurance to people with $20 million net worth at a time when the publicly funded air ambulance service was struggling at home with critical safety problems.
It started early last year. Paramedics and pilots were filing serious complaints with ORNGE and its provincial masters, saying a poorly designed helicopter interior and improper staffing of air ambulances were making the service unsafe.
But Mazza and fellow executives were far from the home front — sometimes literally — focusing on several get-rich quick schemes, chief among them an international travel insurance plan for the “elite of the elite,” documents show.
Florida, Brazil and Saudi Arabia were all places to which ORNGE executives travelled, trying to drum up international business. Three per cent of the gross revenue from these schemes was to go to Ontario — and the lion’s share to companies they owned. Provincial investigators are trying to see how many public dollars were spent on these schemes.
Documents obtained by the Star dated April 2011 detail the “ORNGE Global Memberships Program.” The Star has not been able to determine if any memberships were sold.
The glossy presentation prepared by ORNGE begins with an idyllic Caribbean scene, a small island and a yacht viewed from the air.
“In one brief second, life can change drastically,” the presentation begins.
The scene then shifts to the Swiss Alps, skiers rocketing down pristine slopes from the top of a mountain. “(ORNGE takes) control to ensure you receive the best medical care you need when you need it the most.”
Promising not the merely best but the “extraordinary,” the ORNGE Global team vowed to sweep in, coordinate medical care and evacuation by an ORNGE aircraft and provide access to the best doctors in the world, no matter where the executive got into trouble.
“Whether going on safari in Tanzania, doing business in Brazil, hosting an intimate gathering on your yacht or relaxing on a remote island, you are free to enjoy yourself without worry,” the presentation says.
If you have an accident or get sick, just one phone call accesses “the latest remote-imaging technology, electronic health records, a top-tiered network of international medical facilities and access to a Rolodex of the world’s leading, highly specialized physicians.”
The price tag for this is a $100,000 one-time membership fee, plus an annual $10,000 membership cost. The executive’s spouse would pay a $5,000 annual fee and each child $2,500. The documents indicate this would be a self-funded insurance policy; there is no indication ORNGE was linked with a large insurance company.
The ORNGE Global documents say it was targeting individuals with a net worth of $20 million or more and companies with key executives whose loss to the business would be catastrophic.
Rates would vary depending on the travel. For instance, there would be higher premiums for Afghanistan than Australia, the documents note.
The presentation invites prospective members of this exclusive “club” to visit the ORNGE head office on Explorer Dr. in Mississauga to get a better understanding of the program.
Insiders say this explains why ORNGE’s $16 million “Crystal Palace” headquarters was so beautifully decked out (custom orange-coloured chairs, fine Italian couches). Paid for with money financed by Ontario taxpayer contributions, the head office was designed by ORNGE executives to impart a feeling of wealth to company investors and travel medical clients.
The building, purchased and renovated in the last two years, replaced not one but two other office buildings ORNGE had leased and renovated since then provincial health minister George Smitherman created the “non-profit” service in 2005.
Each office was nicer than the one before.
Also, ORNGE leased a giant aircraft hangar in Hamilton (the plan was to move the Toronto Island Airport base there), though that plan is now on hold.
ORNGE executives, the Star has found, wanted that base because the proximity to the Hamilton airport meant it could accommodate international customs clearance for the long-range air ambulance jet ORNGE planned to buy for the travel medical program.
While this push for the international expansion of ORNGE was going on, there were troubles at home. Founder Mazza and the top tier of vice-presidents were increasingly distracted by the international push.
Mazza was often away travelling, as were other executives. For one executive’s education pursuits, it was Belgium. For another two executives trying to establish the ORNGE Global base at Mazza’s urging, it was Florida.
Former ORNGE executive Luis Nava was hired to design an executive compensation program. That led to the whopping salaries for ORNGE brass, the highest being the $1.4 million annual pay package for Mazza.
Amid this flurry of international activity, ORNGE’s newly purchased fleet of AW 139 helicopters was each installed with a $600,000 medical interior that paramedics repeatedly told ORNGE brass was unsafe.
It was only last week, a year after they went into service, that an ORNGE official (new boss Ron McKerlie) said he will get the interiors fixed.
Also over the past year, ORNGE began a policy of “downstaffing” air ambulance bases, putting paramedics with less training on aircraft (they are cheaper), providing just one paramedic (ministry rules say two paramedics with a high level of training are needed on an air ambulance to transport critical patients), and not calling in a replacement paramedic when someone booked off sick.
Paramedics and their union complained to ORNGE and the provincial health ministry numerous times last year but nothing was done, documents reveal.
In a recent interview, ORNGE chief operating officer Tom Lepine said he is looking into the matter and hopes more paramedics with the highest training (called “critical-care paramedics”) will be on air ambulances in the future.
Transporting ill patients (70 per cent of ORNGE’s work is moving patients between hospitals) is tricky. Those on board the aircraft need to have proper training in case the patient’s condition deteriorates.
With this downstaffing, doctors and nurses have had to accompany patients on air ambulance transfers, medical officials have told the Star. ORNGE’s airplanes typically don’t fly the doctor or nurse back; they must take a commercial flight and then bill ORNGE for it.
Paramedics, pilots and doctors who work for ORNGE say the international ventures, since closed by the province, caused the $150-million-a-year air ambulance service to run into trouble.
In the meantime, the ORNGE Global Memberships program was promising “luxury, exclusive, club-like” protection for “entrepreneurs, risk-takers and innovators.”