ORNGE: Mount Sinai Orders Review of Hospital’s ‘Agreement’ with Chris Mazza After Toronto Star Exposes Agreement

Update: see previous posts – January 19, 2013 ORNGE: Highest Paid Ontario Civil Servant (1.4 Million Annually) Chris Mazza, Lived Lavish Lifestyle, December 28, 2012 ORNGE: ORNGE Sets Up Policy to Protect Whistleblowers in Wake of Scandal, December 20, 2012 ORNGE: New Leader of ORNGE Will Only Receive Half the Compensation of the Former Leader and Founder Dr. Chris Mazza, November 9, 2012 ORNGE: Chris Mazza Wanted Out, but Board Didn’t Want Him to Go, August 3, 2012 ORNGE: Government Probe of ORNGE Ends For Summer Break & other posts

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ORNGE Air Ambulance Helicopter

While ORNGE was paying top Mount Sinai doctor, Tom Stewart, ORNGE’s Chris Mazza had some sort of deal with the hospital, organized or arranged by Stewart.

An “external independent review” commissioned last week by the Toronto hospital will examine “agreements” between Mazza and the hospital that recently came to light in a Star investigation.

Earlier, the Star reported that top Mount Sinai doctor Tom Stewart was paid $436,000 in public money by ORNGE over seven years to advise Mazza and ORNGE on medical issues — work that the air ambulance firm’s new managers say they cannot confirm was done because the relationship was primarily between Mazza and Stewart.

Now, Mount Sinai has said that while ORNGE was paying Stewart, Mazza had some sort of deal with Mount Sinai, organized or arranged by Stewart.

The hospital is not saying much, and Mazza will not comment. In a brief interview, Stewart’s lawyer, Terry O’Sullivan, said Mazza “had agreements with Mount Sinai Hospital and he performed valuable services under those agreements while working with Dr. Stewart and others at Mount Sinai Hospital.”

Here’s what Mount Sinai had to say:

“We can confirm that there were agreements with Dr. Chris Mazza and the Department of Medicine, under the auspices of Dr. Tom Stewart, in his capacity as director of the medical/surgical intensive care unit and as physician-in-chief of the Department of Medicine,” said Sylvia Sharp, the hospital’s communications vice-president.

The Star has asked: Was Mazza paid? How much was he paid? When did the agreements start and end? What did Mazza do? All answers were denied by Sharp, who said provincial privacy laws prevent her from providing information.

“The hospital has decided that the appropriate course of action is to have outside legal counsel conduct an external independent review,” Sharp said.

The ORNGE air ambulance service was created in 2005 by Mazza. The agency receives $150 million in provincial funding annually.

In earlier replies to questions from the Star, Mount Sinai’s Stewart said he first met Mazza when they were hospital doctors battling SARS in Ontario in the early 2000s. Once at ORNGE, Mazza retained him as an adviser, with ORNGE paying Stewart $75,000 a year. That amount was in addition to the $607,000 Stewart receives in annual salary and benefits from the hospital. Stewart said he saw evidence of his “counsel” to Mazza and ORNGE play out in many areas, among them “improved critical-care system integration.”

The contract ended in January 2012 after ORNGE’s former chief operating officer, Tom Lepine, raised concerns and brought them to the now former ORNGE chairman Rainer Beltzner, who passed them on to the provincial health ministry. Beltzner also passed on concerns that Mazza was receiving a medical stipend from ORNGE (more than $400,000 in one year) and said he had learned that Mazza “apparently was not even providing the services,” according to the former chairman’s testimony at a public hearing.

In Mazza’s recently released expense records is evidence of contact between Stewart and Mazza, including downtown lunches paid by ORNGE and parking chits Mazza claimed when he parked near Mount Sinai. Stewart said he and Mazza were social friends. One dinner, a $272 outing in July 2007, took place at Blowfish restaurant on King St. W. in Toronto.

Throughout the seven years ORNGE was paying Stewart, objections were raised about Stewart’s contract by other executives, said ORNGE spokesman James MacDonald. He said Mazza “gave direction that it remain in effect” and the contract was always renewed.

When first contacted by the Star, Stewart said (through the public relations department at the hospital) he would make his contracts public. Later, public relations staff said Stewart had “retained counsel” and advised the Star to contact lawyer Terry O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan has taken the Star’s questions and passed them on to his client, who is travelling.

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