News Provincial

Selling eHealth not being eyed: Ed Clark

The Canadian Press 

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

Ontario’s privatization guru says that as he does a “value assessment” of the province’s digital health system, consideration of selling any piece of it is “absolutely” off the table.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins asked Ed Clark earlier this month to examine the system as the mandate of eHealth Ontario expires at the end of 2017.

Giving that task to Clark has worried critics, since the former TD Bank CEO headed up an advisory council that helped plan the sale of a majority stake in Hydro One, and the letter Hoskins sent to him uses many of the same phrases as the Liberal government has used to defend the Hydro One sale.

“You shouldn’t read anything into that,” Clark said Monday after a Canadian Club speech. “If it happens to be the same phrase maybe that was a mistake.”

The advisory council recommended keeping ownership in other assets, such as Ontario Power Generation and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Clark noted.

“One asset we said you should reduce your ownership in, everything else we said you should keep your ownership,” he said. “So it’s not like we have a little formula that says, ’Sell, sell, sell, no matter what it is.”’

The purpose of the review is to look at what data currently exists, how to improve access to that data and giving Ontarians better ways to manage their own health care, Clark said.

“There’s nothing in eHealth that I think anyone would think about selling, so it’s not about that,” he said, adding that selling any parcel of the digital health assets is “absolutely” not being considered.

“Some of the stuff is so good that people want to license it, do it in other provinces, but that’s not...a bad thing.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne said in the legislature Monday that there is no possibility of the sale or commercial use of people’s health information.

“We’re going to look at the work that’s been done and look at the investments that have been made and what the results are, and understand how we move forward to make sure that people in this province have the best digital health strategy possible,” she said.

“We need to make sure that we leverage all of the technology that is available to people in the 21st century and make sure it works for the people of the province and their health care.”

NDP critic Catherine Fife said she wasn’t convinced.

“(Wynne) she has said in the past we’re not going to sell off Hydro One and then they did,” Fife said. “So there’s a pattern here and there are serious trust issues with this government and regardless of the assurances of Mr. Clark, we have a letter which uses the same language that involves the sell-off of Hydro One, so we have to watch this very carefully.”

Clark said he has been told to issue a report by Christmas.



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