Quebec’s Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says hiring an expensive public relations firm is no way to fix the image of the McGill University Health Centre.
Barrette spoke to CBC News Friday morning about an order he gave the MUHC earlier this week to cancel the remainder of its $600,000 contract with the Montreal PR firm Jonathan Goldbloom and Associates, or JGA.
'This is double usage of public money,' - Gaétan Barrette, Quebec Health Minister
Barrette gave the hospital until the end of the summer to end the contract, and extended the order to all hospitals in Quebec.
“We asked [the MUHC] to rescind the contract because this is something we don’t expect to happen in any hospital,” Barrette told CBC News.
Quebec’s hospitals have their own in-house communications and PR staff who are paid to provide these services.
“We don’t see why a hospital, which already has the manpower to do that, why they have to go outside and spend that kind of money,” he said.
"This is double usage of public money ... This is something that will be stopped today."
Barrette said $600,000 for the MUHC’s two-year contract with JGA was “extremely high for a contract of this nature.”
According to JGA’s website, the agency “has planned and managed strategic communications and brand development programs” for the MUHC.
Services the agency provides include brand protection and crisis management.
The contract specified that Jonathan Goldbloom was to serve as a consultant to the MUHC's executive office.
Goldbloom once worked for the MUHC as its interim director of communications.
He did not respond to the CBC's request for an interview.
The MUHC's internal PR team issued a statement Friday saying "the contract with JGA was not to manage the MUHC's image or communications, but to support to the MUHC Executive Office with strategic advice notably in relation to the institution's transformation for 2015"
But Barrette said he was given different information.
"The only thing I've been told by MUHC is that he was [hired] for one purpose only: rebuild their image," he said.
Barrette said the best way for the MUHC to remake its image is by continuing to deliver quality health care and better managing its resources.
“A hospital’s image is first of all based on quality of care that is provided to their patients. And at McGill the quality of care has never been in question, anytime, at all,” he said.
“It has to be through quality of care and proper management instead of spending money to build or rebuild their image,” Barrette said.
The MUHC stated that it will "fully respect the ministerial directive within the timeframe provided."