Update: see previous posts – 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?
The axe swung at ORNGE again Tuesday: 18 middle management staff cut, along with a charity program. At least two top executives have also left the building.
Interim president Ron McKerlie said it is being done “in an effort to contain costs and to redirect our focus.”
ORNGE receives $150 million annually to deliver air ambulance service to Ontario. McKerlie, a deputy minister, was sent in by provincial health minister Deb Matthews after a Star investigation turned up high salaries, executive spending sprees and delays in responding to emergency calls.
McKerlie said more resources need to be devoted to the “front-line delivery of patient care.” He referred to the “immediate termination” of staff from what he called “back-office departments.”
No names were provided when the Star asked. Paramedics and pilots are not affected in this round of cuts. Many of the people let go were involved in supporting a group of for-profit international companies that the province recently chopped in an attempt to get ORNGE back to its basic job of providing emergency services to Ontario.
Also chopped was J Smarts, the ORNGE program that former president Dr. Chris Mazza created in the memory of Josh Mazza, his son, who died in a skiing accident in 2006, the year after ORNGE was created. Josh was just a few days shy of his 15th birthday.
J Smarts, which was part of the ORNGE Foundation (a charity), was set up by Chris Mazza to teach youth how to safely participate in high-risk sports. Its mission statement describes the need to develop a “tool” that will help youth “ask the right questions” and decide if they are making a safe decision.
J Smarts was the corporate entity that briefly owned a high-end wakeboard boat that ORNGE says was rarely used. At one time, J Smarts was to operate out of a large water-filled quarry near Guelph. Then it operated a summer program at an exclusive sports camp in Muskoka, and according to its website it now offers speakers who will introduce the program in schools.
A well-intentioned plan, J Smarts is one of several ventures that auditors are now looking into to see if money and resources were channelled away from the core business — air ambulance service in Ontario. Auditors are also probing a series of for-profit companies that are all shut down. The main company was majority owned by Mazza and received payments from ORNGE suppliers, including the Italian company that sold ORNGE its new helicopters.
Financial statements for J Smarts were not immediately available. Its funding comes through the ORNGE Foundation, which, according to federal charity records, has $7.5 million in assets.
Also Tuesday, two top executives left their offices at the Crystal Palace, the ORNGE-owned office building with the high-end furniture that has drawn the ire of many paramedics and pilots who say too much money is spent on glitz at the service.
The Star is not naming them until we have given them an opportunity to respond to questions. One was a top manager who received an executive MBA at ORNGE expense and the other was involved in the now ill-fated attempt to create ORNGE International. One quit in disgust and one has taken an indefinite medical leave. Meanwhile, Mazza, who has also taken a medical leave, is no longer listed on the corporate website profile of ORNGE.
The ORNGE headquarters, owned by the service, has a high number of staff, though the building is only three-quarters filled (it was purchased in anticipation of the international business taking off.)
Earlier, the entire ORNGE board was removed, and an unknown number of other staff lost their jobs.
One other casualty is the departure of Gannon Loftus, an ORNGE public relations official who over the past two weeks has helped the service weather the recent media storm. Loftus promptly provided information when the Star made inquiries.
James MacDonald, an ORNGE spokesperson, told the Star “I can confirm that Gannon no longer works for ORNGE.” It’s not known if Loftus quit or was let go