ORNGE: Health Ministry Probed 26 Deaths Involving ORNGE Air Ambulance Service Since 2007

Update: see previous posts – May 30, 2012 ORNGE: Did Oshawa Receive An ORNGE Helicopter Base With the Influence of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty?, May 30, 2012 ORNGE: Will Premier Dalton McGuinty Be Call to Testify at ORNGE Hearing?, May 28, 2012 ORNGE: Government Lawyer Warned Against Chris Mazza Plan, According to Leaked Documents, May 24, 2012 ORNGE: Leaked Documents Indicate that ORNGE Ran a $14.5 Million Deficit, May 18, 2012 ORNGE: Second Legislative Warrant To Be Issued for ORNGE Founder Chris Mazza, May 8, 2012 ORNGE: ORNGE Boss Chris Mazza Received Substantial Increase In Salary After Revealing to Board Another Company Had Interest In Him, May 7, 2012 ORNGE: …Physician, Heal Thyself…. Dr. Chris Mazza Too Sick to Testify Regarding His Company, May 3, 2012 ORNGE: Kelly Long “I Feel I Did a GREAT JOB for Both Pathway and ORNGE. I Feel That I DESERVED the Promotions I Received,”, May 2, 2012 ORNGE: Chris Mazza’s Girlfriend Glided Into Vice-President Position at ORNGE, April 27, 2012 ORNGE: Deb Matthews’ Proposed Bill 50 Would Block Ombudsman Oversight, April 26, 2012 ORNGE: Alf Apps May Have Engaged in Lobbying, Integrity Commissioner Says, April 25, 2012 ORNGE: ORNGE Execs’ Girlfriend, Daughter Did $6.7-million Report Using Google, April 21, 2012 ORNGE: Star’s ORNGE Investigations Nominated for Michener Award, April 20, 2012 ORNGE: Warrant To Be Generated To Compel Dr. Chris Mazza to Appear Before Queen’s Park Committee, March 31, 2012 ORNGE: Health Minister Considered Turning Funding Tap Off to ORNGE, March 27, 2012 ORNGE – Should Liberal Health Minister Deb Matthews Accept Responsibility For the ORNGE Scandal?, March 23, 2012 ORNGE – Liberals Refuse To Release Salaries of ORNGE Executives on Sunshine List, March 22, 2012 ORNGE: Ontario’s Auditor General Uncovers More Questionable Deals at ORNGE Air Ambulance Service, March 21, 2012 ORNGE: Former Ontario Liberal Health Minister Blames Ministry Officials and Board for Scandal at ORNGE, March 17, 2012 ORNGE: Auditor General Jim McCarter to Release Probe Wednesday, March 12, 2012 ORNGE: Ontarians Expected to Pay An Annual Tab of $22 Million (in addition to $150 Million) for ORNGE, March 9, 2012 ORNGE: Too Many Needless Government Agencies in Ontario, March 8, 2012 ORNGE: Demotes Top Executive Who Lied About Possessing Master of Business Administration Degree, March 7, 2012 ORNGE – Current Health Minister (Deb Matthews) Blames Former Health Minister (George Smitherman), March 6, 2012 ORNGE – Helicopters’ Tail Rotors Could Fall Off, says Frank Klees, March 5, 2012 ORNGE – How Much Did Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews Really Know?, March 2, 2012 ORNGE – Sells Gift (Chopper) from AugustaWestland Valued at $50K for $30,001.01, March 1, 2012 ORNGE – Ontario Opposition Parties Call On McGuinty to Have All-Party Probe of ORNGE, March 1, 2012 ORNGE – Some ORNGE Helicopters Unable to Enter U.S.A. Airspace, February 28, 2012 ORNGE – ORNGE Official Says He Lied About His MBA, February 28, 2012 ORNGE – ORNGE Fiasco could Hurt Ontario’s Ability to Cut Deficit: Former Deputy Health Minister, February 24, 2012 ORNGE – Where’s the $25 Million Dollars?, February 22, 2012 ORNGE – ORNGE Mistakes Disrupt Patient Care/Safety, February 22, 2012 ORNGE – Cohn: ORNGE leaves a black mark on Deb Matthews’ ambitious health reforms February 21, 2012 ORNGE – Minister of Health Refuses to Resign Over the ORNGE Scandal February 21, 2012, ORNGE – ORNGE Executives Let Taxpayers Down: Dalton McGuinty, February 19, 2012 ORNGE – Message to 400 ORNGE Employees “Shut Up or Face Criminal Charges & Jail Time”, February 16, 2012 ORNGE – Ontario Provincial Police Set to Investigate ORNGE, February 13, 2012 ORNGE Founder Chris Mazza Used Air Ambulance Expertise for His Own Business Interests, February 12, 2012 ORNGE – ORNGE Gave $1.2 million in Loans (One for a House), Plus a Huge Cash Advance, to Founder Dr. Chris Mazza Over the Past 18 Months, February 10, 2012 ORNGE – Did Alf Apps Quit Fasken Martineau or Did Fasken Martineau Quit Alf Apps?, February 8, 2012 ORNGE Scandal Teaches Belated Lessons, February 7. 2012 ORNGE – Dr. Chris Mazza, February 4, 2012 ORNGE – Paid Fasken Martineau Lawyer’s $9 Million Dollars Between 2006-2012, February 3, 2012 ORNGE – Auditor Warned Province Four Years Ago that ORNGE was “Handing Out Money Like Water”, February 3, 2012 ORNGE – Dr. Chris Mazza/Maria Renzella Terminated Without Severance, January 30, 2012 ORNGE’s Travel Medical Plan Targeted Those With $20 Million in Net Worth, January 28, 2012 Doctor Chris Mazza on Extended Indefinite Medical Leave – Needs to Answer Million$ 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 ?

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Emergency service personnel load a seriously injured person onto the ORNGE emergency air ambulance at the Guelph Air Park in 2011. New documents reveal that 26 deaths involving ORNGE over the past six years were under investigation by the Ministry of Health. Tony Saxon/Guelph Mercury File Photo

Secret cabinet documents reveal the Health Ministry has investigated 26 patient deaths since 2007, including at least two children, due to alleged problems at ORNGE.

The 42-page Liberal briefing entitled “Investigations Concerning Air Ambulance and Related Services” is dated May 23 and was obtained by Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees from disgruntled public servants.

Klees charged the report proves nothing has changed at the air ambulance service since the ORNGE board was replaced earlier this year and senior management fired.

Cabinet documents are prepared for Premier Dalton McGuinty and his top ministers. However, a spokesperson for Health Minister Deb Matthews said this particular report was not handed out.

The documents indicate this year alone there have been 40 serious incidents probed by the ministry’s emergency health services branch, said Klees in a Friday press conference. Last year, 27 incidents were examined.

“Where was the decisive action, the decisive steps we were repeatedly told the minister had taken?” asked Klees. “The very fact that these incidents continue to take place proves . . . this organization has never had the core competency to manage an air ambulance service.”

Klees said when he read through the document he was “gripped with the life-and-death issues that each and every one of 42 pages registered.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters in Ottawa he hadn’t seen the records and “couldn’t speak to their reliability” but he looks forward to “reviewing the document to find out exactly what its significance is.”

McGuinty defended ORNGE’s record of transporting 19,000 patients each year and said employees are “doing their very, very best.”

He also said the Liberals are working to change the culture at ORNGE. “We put in a new team, we’ve replaced the leadership there, we’ve put in place a new performance agreement which allows the minister to bring more oversight to bear and provide further direction that is taking place,” McGuinty said.

The latest service complaints include only one paramedic responding to a patient call, major delays in dispatching air ambulances, medics unable to perform CPR due to cramped conditions inside helicopters and running out of supplies like oxygen and medication.

In some incidents, ministry officials said ORNGE was not to blame and responded appropriately.

Serious cases outlined in the document include:

 Oct. 23, 2011 a single paramedic onboard an ORNGE helicopter responded to the collapse of a 14-year-old boy in Timiskaming. The medic informed the local emergency medical service he was unable to perform CPR on the patient during transport. The boy was transported by land ambulance and died. The coroner was notified.

  June 30, 2011Windsor Regional Hospital required an emergency air ambulance transport to London for a critically ill child. When ORNGE first got the request there were resources available but investigators found they did not create a record of the call and the flight planner could not review it. Windsor had to call ORNGE a second time and by then nothing was available. The child died and the coroner was informed.

 July 17, 2011 In the London area it is alleged ORNGE failed to respond to a motor vehicle collision as the ORNGE communications centre was waiting to see “if the patient was hurt enough.” The helicopter never launched. One person died. The coroner was notified.

An all-party legislative committee has held eight hearings so far into the ORNGE scandal.

The probe has heard of various problems, including: dubious business strategies and the creation of a web of ORNGE for-profit companies that are now out of business; high salaries; and a questionable $6.7-million marketing agreement made after the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters.

ORNGE founder Dr. Chris Mazza has repeatedly been unable to testify due to medical reasons, but his girlfriend, Kelly Long, a former water-ski instructor turned ORNGE vice-president, has detailed her meteoric corporate rise through the agency to the committee.

Earlier this week, Klees told the hearing of incidents between May and October 2011 in which critically injured patients died after they were unable to get CPR inside ORNGE’s new AW 139 helicopters.

A Star investigation has catalogued the cramped interiors of the helicopters and how they were a disaster waiting to happen.

Klees called on the chief coroner of Ontario to step in and investigate.

Dr. Andrew McCallum, the province’s chief coroner, responded late Friday to say his office has investigated all ORNGE cases brought to their attention.

“Some of those investigations are still ongoing. Of our completed investigations, there have been no cases in which issues with air ambulance transportation materially affected the course of the patient’s illness or injury,” McCallum said in a statement.

The committee heard from fired ORNGE executive Tom Lepine, a former paramedic, that he knew of some of the incidents and complaints about the helicopters. He said when ORNGE is dispatched to pick up a trauma or critically ill patient, it is not entirely unusual if a patient dies.

ORNGE spent $6 million on the interiors of the helicopters and even sent a team, including Lepine, to Switzerland to oversee the design.

Lepine testified paramedics could perform CPR in the new helicopters, except during take-off and landing.

In a statement, ORNGE said it has new leadership, that it takes every incident seriously and progress has been made to improve patient safety.

“The most significant clinical concerns relating to the medical interior have been addressed, and in consultation with frontline staff, plans are in the works for a permanent solution which will provide a more effective working environment for ORNGE paramedics,” the statement said, adding the agency’s on-scene helicopter launch policy was recently revised.

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