Rot at the top of the IWK

The IWK CEO expense scandal illustrates there is rot at the top.

As the CBC peels away the layers of this scandal and subsequent cover up I think Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canadians, since the IWK is the regional children’s hospital, have been caught off-guard. It is like the region has taken a punch in the gut.

What seemed like an innocent accounting issue has grown into the type of misused public funds and subsequent cover-up on a scale and style worthy of a Washington scandal. The selective reporting/withholding of information eclipses the misuse of money to shake the foundations of public trust.

If this can happen at such a highly-regarded institution, what is happening at our other boards, commissions and agencies? And yes, what about the Nova Scotia Health Authority and predecessor authorities? A line has been crossed which opens all to scrutiny.

We now rightly have questions about the veracity of the executive, of senior management and the board. Boards of directors are supposed to be the public’s guardian. They are supposed to have the inside information and access to ensure operations are true, accurate and managed according to the rules and regulations as well as being in line with the moral expectations of the public. This is a massive violation.

Where was the board? Robert Hanf, former president of Nova Scotia Power and former chairman of the IWK board, said he was never alerted to any inaccuracies. He only became aware of a potential problem following the CBC’s freedom of information requests. How is it that someone put in the position of board chairman because of his business expertise didn’t notice documents were incomplete? A reporter, who probably hasn’t the business background of Hanf, noticed it and challenged it. Hanf told the CBC, “the IWK board put confidence in the assurances we were provided. I trusted the information being provided to me had been properly reviewed internally and therefore that it was accurate.”

That sounds like lazy over-sight. And lazy over-sight is probably more rampant across public boards than anyone wants to admit. What do we expect with drop-in volunteer boards? I have repeatedly asked how many times any health board ever said no to an executive request? Has any board ever held executives to account for missed deadlines, spending, performance and patient outcomes? Or are public boards just rubber stamps for all too unaccountable public executives? The rot comes from relying on – and knowing how to play – the incestuous old boys clubs that populate public boards.

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4 Responses to Rot at the top of the IWK

  1. ausca says:

    I was thinking along the same lines. It will be interesting to see how the IWK fends this off. One can only wonder about the competence or integrity of the NHSA as well. The top level management of these are what the government relies upon to manage our hospitals, a major component of the most costly provincial program offered by the NS government – also one upon which lives depend.
    Serious investigation and (likely) radical reform needed IMHO.

    Given government seems scared of it, how do they recruit someone able and honest enough to do the job?

    • In my adult life I don’t think we have had such a serious situation as this. I still believe the government can, once they recover from this betrayal, rethink the composition of public boards and find fresh thinkers to guard the public institutions.

    • Yes. What is missing is accountability and performance standards. No one is measuring patient outcomes, no one is holding the health executives accountable for the lack of improvement in patient outcomes. Over and over I heard doctors saying: ‘you can’t fix what you don’t measure’.

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