EHealth Ontario's newest president and CEO says he hopes to transform the embattled provincial agency into one that is transparent and fair for all Ontarians, even as he acknowledges that meeting a key deadline will be "a tall order" for his organization.
Greg Reed, who began his job on April 1, told CBC News on Wednesday that his appointment is both an "enormous opportunity and enormous challenge."
He has work to do after Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter released a scathing report in the fall that found the agency had mismanaged $1 billion of taxpayers' money, with little oversight.
McCarter's report stated the board of directors at eHealth felt it had little power over former CEO Sarah Kramer because she had been hired by chair Alan Hudson "with the support of the premier."
That, McCarter said, gave Kramer the impression she had approval to ignore normal procurement procedures.
Health Minister David Caplan resigned because of the report. Kramer resigned from her job in June 2009 over the awarding of untendered contracts, and was criticized over her salary, severance pay and bonuses.
"The auditor general of Ontario did a very, very thorough review back in October [and] had a number of quite specific recommendations on the way the agency had to operate to avoid the problems in the past of untendered contracts, inappropriate spending and making sure there's the checks and balances in the business, but also that [there's] the transparency so that other parts of government could look in and see what's happening," Reed said.
"I think that is part of it, but another part of it is just working on the culture and behavioural norms of the organization."
2015 deadline will be 'a challenge'
Reed worked at international strategy consulting firm McKinsey & Company for 20 years, handling the files of distressed companies facing bankruptcy. He said a "culture from the top" approach needs to be established at eHealth in order to create "compliance, value for money and realizing that these are the hard-earned dollars of the people of Ontario."
EHealth is responsible for creating an electronic health record for all Ontarians by 2015 — a deadline Reed said would be "a tall order" to meet.
"I think it's going to be a challenge. I think it's an achievable challenge, but it's a challenge," he said. Reed added that his agency's task requires the co-operation of pharmacies, hospitals — many of which have already digitized their records — as well as physicians across Ontario, about a quarter of whom currently have electronic patient files.
"EHealth is an important priority for our government," Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care, said in a statement.
"I am pleased that the agency has attracted such a strong leader to play a pivotal role in building our sustainable, patient-focused health-care system."
Reed, who most recently worked as the CEO of wealth management company Altamira Investment Services and Dundee Bank of Canada, will also serve on eHealth's board of directors.
He will make $325,000 a year in salary plus a maximum 25 per cent bonus if he achieves a number of benchmarks set by eHealth's board. Kramer, the former CEO, was making $380,000 a year in base salary and received a bonus of $114,000 only four months into the job. She got a severance package worth $317,000 when she left the post last June.