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Government & policy

Telus, Maximus prequalified to bid on drug system

TORONTO – eHealth Ontario and Infrastructure Ontario has announced the companies prequalified to respond to a request for proposals for the development of the province's drug information system.

Maximus Canada and Telus Health Solutions are the companies that have been prequalified based on a request for qualifications process that began in March 2011. The companies will be invited to respond to a request for proposals, expected to be issued in summer 2011.

The drug information system will provide a secure and comprehensive record of medications to enhance patient care in Ontario. The goals of the drug information system are: to improve patient safety, to improve quality of care, to increase access to care and provide online tools to support medication management.

After the announcement was made, various national media outlets pointed out that Telus currently employs two executives who were previously linked to the eHealth Ontario billing scandal in 2009.

Dr. Michael Guerriere and Dave Wattling were principals with Courtyard Group when that company was embroiled in the scandal at eHealth over untendered contracts and consultants’ expenses.

However, Muriel Deschenes, eHealth Ontario’s director of stakeholder relations and communications, told the Toronto Star that neither Guerriere nor Wattling was referred to in Telus’ proposal.

“Neither of the individuals has been involved in any of the vendor discussions,” said Deschenes, adding that the procurement process is conducted independently by Infrastructure Ontario.

Jim Johannsson, director of media relations at Telus, said the company partially absorbed Courtyard in February, taking on 30 employees and some of their contracts. However, Guerriere and Wattling are not part of the eHealth bid and would not be part of the contract if Telus wins the bidding, said Johannsson.

Courtyard received four sole-sourced contracts from eHealth worth $10,577,056, though the company billed $7,129,319.

Two years ago, revelations of procurement practices at eHealth Ontario resulted in a political scandal that shook Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government, leading to the resignation of a minister and senior officials at the agency.

In a 2009 report to the Legislature that criticized the Liberals – and the previous Progressive Conservative governments of former premiers Ernie Eves and Mike Harris – for cost overruns on electronic health records, Auditor General Jim McCarter alluded to the fact that Courtyard had close ties to eHealth Ontario.

Health Minister Deb Matthews said there is no political interference whatsoever when it comes to awarding contracts. “It is not up to me. It is the very transparent process that determines the best vendor,” Matthews told reporters.

“Let’s be clear, we have a very transparent, open process when it comes to procurement. The (request) went out. There were three respondents, two of them qualified.”

eHealth Ontario plays a leading role in harnessing technology and innovation to improve patient care, safety and access in support of the government's health strategy. The agency is responsible for implementing the government's ehealth agenda and creating electronic health records for Ontarians.

The medication management system is expected to improve patient safety by reducing the number of adverse drug reactions.

Infrastructure Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to delivering some of the province's larger and more complex infrastructure renewal projects; as well, it is dedicated to providing the public sector and not-for-profit organizations with long-term financing to renew their infrastructure.

Posted July 14, 2011