July 8
CKHA axes consultant over Wesley affair
Actions outside hospital's mandate, says board chair

Saying the conduct didn’t fit within its values, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance has parted ways with its strategic consultant.

The hospital tri-board executive committee made the decision with administration Tuesday night to sever ties with Veritas Communications Canada.

This comes after the Toronto-based company tried to seek information about Save Our Sydenham chairman Jeff Wesley through his political opponent.

Jennifer Wilson, tri-board chairperson, said the CKHA was unaware of this action.

“They acted outside of their mandate,” she said yesterday. “They did something that we didn’t ask them to do, and frankly it wasn’t in keeping with the values of the hospital.”

Veritas was hired in June for a three-month period to develop a community engagement strategy concerning the Chatham and Wallaceburg facilities.

Last week, senior consultant Karl Baldauf e-mailed Pat Davis, chief of staff for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley, asking for "revealing or insightful" information on Wesley, a former Liberal candidate.
However, Davis turned the e-mails over to Wesley, a long-time friend of over 40 years.

Wilson said Tuesday was the first opportunity for the tri-board to address the issue.

“It was really difficult to move forward with community engagement after the damage this errant e-mail had made,” she said.
Last winter, the Hay Group recommended to the Erie St. Clair Local Heath Integration Network that the Sydenham emergency department be closed and converted into an urgent-care centre.
However, the final decision was deferred until the Rural and Northern Health Care Panel completes its mandate this fall.

Wilson said the CKHA will now consider previous consultant firms that expressed interest.
“This is a very unfortunate situation — talk about getting off on the wrong foot,” she said. “We’re going to have to start fresh.”

Wilson said since the hospital didn’t know what Veritas was doing, she doesn’t expect friction with Wesley’s organization. “I’m not sure why there would be any damage between SOS and CKHA,” she said. “But there’s considerable damage between Veritas and SOS, and Veritas and CKHA.”
Wesley welcomed the news that the hospital dropped the consultant.

However, he said it should have happened sooner.
“It’s about time,” he said. “It’s a little bit disappointing because both Veritas and the health alliance came out initially and said it’s a big misunderstanding.”

Wesley said he still has unanswered questions about the ordeal, such as exactly how many people knew about it.
He said SOS was supposed to take a break this summer until the health panel released its findings, but admits that has changed.

“I’m in touch with the entire committee on a daily basis,” he said. “And we’ll continue to do so, especially now.”
Bill Walker, senior vice-president of Veritas, had apologized on behalf of the company.

Speaking yesterday, he said he understood the action that was taken.

“We regret the disruption that we’ve caused in Chatham-Kent for CKHA and for Mr. Wesley,” he said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing that everyone involved wants is to ensure that absolute highest standard of health-care delivery in Chatham-Kent.”

Walker praised the professionalism of CKHA staff and wished them well moving forward.
He said there are no ramifications for the hospital terminating the contract.
“I’m confident that they’ll be able to iimeplement their program and it will be extremely successful,” he said.


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