(WINNIPEG - TREATY 1) -The Manitoba Health Coalition has written the Office of Auditor General for Manitoba to ask that an investigation be launched into the appointment of the Shared Health Board of Directors. In the opinion of the MHC, far too many members of the Board have been selected and promoted by the Government of Manitoba for their connection to private corporations with a direct financial interest in decisions made, influenced or discussed by the Board. MHC believes that the current Board should be vacated and a new process put in place that will provide Manitobans with a Board that places public health care over private profit.
May 7, 2022
Office of the Auditor General
500-330 Portage Avenue
Dear Mr. Shtykalo,
I hope this letter finds you well. On behalf of the Manitoba Health Coalition (MHC), I am writing you today to ask that you launch an immediate investigation into the appointment by the Government of Manitoba and Shared Health to appoint a permanent Board of Directors (BoD) for Shared Health. MHC is concerned with the appointment of several individuals with connections advertised by the Government of Manitoba as having direct connections to businesses or entities which stand to profit from decisions of the Shared Health BoD.
It’s no secret that the current government’s plans for healthcare reform rely heavily on privatization and service reduction. Launched in 2017, Pallister-era health care reforms included the closing of Winnipeg emergency rooms, the reduction of critical care capacity and the privatization of out-patient services.
Shared Health is central to these efforts. It was created in 2018 to serve as the provincial lead in “planning and coordinating the integration of patient-centred clinical and preventive services across Manitoba”. As such, it plays a vital role in health policy, planning and delivery.
Until recently, Shared Health was governed by an interim board of directors. The 2020-21 Shared Health Annual Report states that “[a] permanent Board of Directors is expected to be appointed at a later time”. The report also states: “A significant Board activity was to continue overseeing the implementation of Shared Health’s transformation activities, developed in concert with provincial transformation goals and objectives.”
Given the critical role of the Shared Health Board of Directors, it is reasonable to infer that its membership, when appointed, would give a clear indication as to the priorities of the new Premier and Health Minister.
On January 10, 2022, the Government of Manitoba launched the nomination process for the new Shared Health Board of Directors.
The nomination form states:
The following are NOT eligible for appointment as directors:
- employees of Shared Health
- medical staff of Shared Health employees and board members of a health corporation that owns or operates a facility or program funded by Shared Health
- medical staff of a health corporation that owns or operates a facility or program funded by Shared Health.
- employees of a health care organization that owns or operates a facility or program, and receives funding from the Shared Health that is 50 per cent or more of its total revenue in a fiscal year
- lawyers, accountants or other persons who provide professional advice, for remuneration to Shared Health
In parsing the eligibility criteria and placing it against the directors selected by Ministerial Letter on March 2, 2022, the word “former” does a lot of work. Five (5) of the eleven (11) Shared Health Board biographies include that word. Some examples:
Chair Brenna Shearer is the former Chair of Pharmacists Manitoba. the Government of Manitoba worked with Pharmacists Manitoba to create a Social Impact Bond that was recently awarded to Shoppers Drug Mart. Social Impact Bonds are a cumbersome and unnecessary form of privatization. For more on the context in Manitoba, see Dr. Jesse Hajer’s report for CCPA-Manitoba.
Laurie Campbell is a former director of sales solutions for Telus. The timeline of her appointment is interesting. As noted earlier, the nomination process was announced on January 10 of this year. On January 20, the Telus Corporation and CEO Darren Entwistle registered with the Lobbyists Registrar in Manitoba. Two lobbyists were added that day on behalf of Telus, both with an interest in Health,in order to “[i]nfluence the making or amendment of a regulation” and “[a]dvancing the adoption of digital health solutions including electronic medical records, e-prescribing, and virtual care”. Just over a month later Minister of Health Audrey Gordon appointed Laurie Campbell to the Shared Health Board of Directors.
Celia Kaufman is described as a former corporate secretary and chief legal officer for People Corporation. As with Telus, People Corporation has a significant interest in private virtual care. MHC is concerned that these appointments will lead to the privatization and corporate control of virtual care in Manitoba, with all the ethical and privacy issues this entails. These themes are explored by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) in a December 2021 report. NUPGE summarizes these concerns:
“When virtual health care is privatized, opportunities are lost to use new technology to improve the delivery of health care in ways that benefit all Canadians. There is the problem that comes with all privatization schemes: when for-profit companies deliver services, the priority becomes increasing profits rather than the well-being of the public. With the privatization of virtual care, there is an added concern that, because many virtual care companies are operating outside of provincial health care systems, it could lead to 2-tier health care, with the wealthy able to buy their way to the front of the line.”
One “former”, who was not listed as such by the Government of Manitoba, is Brenda Martinussen. She was in fact promoted by the government as the COO of Nurse Next Door, a for-profit home care company. Martinussen is now listed on the Shared Health website as the chief strategy and growth officer for DASCH. MHC presumes this would make her the formerCOO of Nurse Next Door. DASCH owns a Nurse Next Door franchise.
Also of concern to MHC is the representative of a pharmaceutical company (Gordon Hrynyk of Valeo Pharma). Valeo proudly lobbies for the commercialization and adoption of its products by provincial governments. As such it should not have a representative on the Shared Health BoD.
In the opinion of MHC, the composition of the Shared Health BoD is fatally flawed. Public health care is a fundamental right for all Manitobans based on the principles (public administration, universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility and portability) and conditions (no extra billing, user fees or queue-jumping) of the Canada Health Act. Whatever the personal motivations of the representatives selected, the fact is that the Government of Manitoba has chosen to highlight those aspects of their biographies most aligned with the privatization of healthcare services under the direct supervision of Shared Health. Manitobans should expect that a board overseeing these services would be selected for the good of all Manitobans, not for their connection to commercial interests friendly to the Pallister-Stefanson vision of health care in Manitoba.
It is the position of MHC that the government of Manitoba should vacate the Shared Health BoD and begin a new, more considered process that takes into account the perspectives of seniors and patients, those with frontline experience in Manitoba's public health care system, Indigenous organizations and marginalized communities.
In the meantime, and in light of the evidence provided herein, MHC asks that your office begin an immediate investigation into the appointment of the permanent BoD of Shared Health so that Manitobans can have confidence in the mission and guiding principles of Manitoba’s public health care system.
If I can be of any assistance to this investigation, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Manitoba Health Coalition
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