March 31, 2020

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WRHA quiet on consultant cost for next phase of hospital reform

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is paying a consultant to oversee the second phase of its hospital reform process, but it says it cannot divulge the cost for legal reasons.

The move follows a pattern — under the Pallister government — that has resulted in millions of dollars paid to outside experts in the transformation of the province's health-care system.

Last summer, the WRHA quietly contracted with KPMG LLP to serve as the "lead project manager" in implementing its overhaul of city hospital services.

The hiring followed months of criticism over the health authority's handling of the closure of the Concordia Hospital and Seven Oaks General Hospital emergency rooms and their conversion to urgent care centres.

"They (the government) don't have money for front–line services, but apparently this government does have money to pay to consulting firms." – NDP Leader Wab Kinew

KPMG was to provide management services July 17-Oct. 17, 2019, with a potential extension until July this year. According to the WRHA, it remains on the job.

A spokesman for the health authority said Monday the WRHA cannot release the cost due to provisions of the province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that prohibit disclosures that would harm a third party's business interests.

That explanation doesn't wash with the provincial NDP, which obtained a copy of the KPMG contract recently under FIPPA.

Party Leader Wab Kinew said the people of Manitoba are on the hook for the cost of the consulting services, "and they deserve to know how much they're paying for it."

The Pallister government contracted with KPMG several years ago, to advise it on how to control costs in the health system, which, Kinew said, led to program cuts.

"They (the government) don't have money for front-line services, but apparently this government does have money to pay to consulting firms," he said.

Manitoba government's consultants tab pushing $23M

Click to Expand
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew on the Tories' $23-million worth of studies by private consultants: "It's just too much."
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew on the Tories' $23-million worth of studies by private consultants: "It's just too much."

Posted: 07/05/2019 7:00 PM

The Pallister government came under attack Tuesday for spending an "eye-popping" amount on consultants in the three years since taking office.

According to a list compiled by the Opposition NDP, the government and its Crown corporations have ordered more than $23-million worth of studies by private consultants — up from $16 million when the Free Press first drew attention to the issue in November.

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Last month, it was revealed the province awarded a contract worth $911,485 to Deloitte to assist it in overhauling health services to communities outside of Winnipeg.

(Last May, the Free Press reported the province and Crown corporations had ordered more than $23 million worth of studies by private consultants since the Tories formed government in 2016.)

The provincial health authority, Shared Health, responded to an NDP request for cost information on the KPMG contract earlier this month, citing expenses of $254,198. It wasn't clear what time frame the payment covered.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for Shared Health said the information was sent out in error, and "the cost disclosed was not associated" with that contract. "I believe it relates to another contract," she said.

The WRHA declined to provide an official for an interview on the KPMG contract, saying the agreement speaks for itself.

In a statement, Health Minister Cameron Friesen justified his government’s use of consultants, saying for years the previous NDP government oversaw "one of the most expensive health-care systems in the country" with diminishing results.

"When needed, we will rely on the advice of experts who have done this work in other jurisdictions to accomplish those goals.” Cameron Friesen said in a statement. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

"When needed, we will rely on the advice of experts who have done this work in other jurisdictions to accomplish those goals.” Cameron Friesen said in a statement. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

"We have promised to lower wait times and deliver a better co-ordinated health-care system for Manitobans. We are committed to being completely accountable on these measures. When needed, we will rely on the advice of experts who have done this work in other jurisdictions to accomplish those goals."

According to the KPMG contract, the consultant "will serve as the lead project manager and help direct project activities on a day-to-day basis."

Among other things, the contractor is responsible for managing projects plans and risks and delivering a bi-weekly status report to the WRHA.

"The contractor's primary responsibility in the project manager role is to support the overall delivery of the project, including deliverables being completed to the required standard of quality and within the specified constraints of time and cost," the contract reads.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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