2009 Ombudsman in the News

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Ontario cancer patients who were once forced into mortgaging their homes or emptying savings accounts to pay for an effective but pricey drug have just had provincial coverage extended. Avastin, which costs $1,750 per treatment for colorectal cancer, will now be covered for 24 cycles instead of just 16, an about-face that comes two months after ombudsman Andre Marin blasted Queen's Park for the short cut-off period.
Ontario is extending its funding of a potentially life-saving drug for cancer patients, just two months after the *province's ombudsman* accused the government of verging on cruelty by cutting off funding after 16 treatments. Ontario will now fund Avastin for up to 24 two-week treatments if medical evidence shows the disease hasn't progressed, Health Minister Deb Matthews said Sunday in an interview with The Canadian Press.
His name is Robert Anderson. He's retired, married, a great-grampa, and living in a small community in southern Ontario. He has a retirement income of $29,000 a year. He's also an innocent victim of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and its uncanny ability to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
This week's bombshell report by Ontario's Auditor-General on eHealth and the resignation of health minister David Caplan underscore the importance of proper stewardship of the province's $42-billion annual health care budget. I commend my fellow officer of the legislature, Jim McCarter, for his findings on the $1-billion squandered on the electronic health records project. Unfortunately, the Ministry's current malaise extends beyond its spending habits and into the realm of life-and-death decision-making.
The Ontario government's decision to cut off funding for colorectal cancer patients taking a life-prolonging drug "verges on cruelty," the province's ombudsman said yesterday. Andre Marin said Ontario's "arbitrary" limit on the number of cycles of the drug Avastin it will fund is leaving patients paying out of their own pocket or forgoing treatment.
Ontario's ombudsman sided with Burlington cancer patients, saying Ontario's cap on a life-prolonging drug is "unreasonable, wrong and verges on cruelty."
An Ontario health ministry decision to limit public funding of a drug used to treat advanced colorectal cancer is based solely on cost considerations, Ombudsman Andre Marin says. And he calls the ministry's proferred "compassionate review" program "as dumb as a bag of hammers." Marin's investigation into the availability of cancer treatment -- Avastin, A Vast Injustice -- concluded that patients showing improvements were unfairly denied coverage after 16 treatment cycles.
The Star's expose of the netherworld of private career colleges in Ontario no doubt stunned a lot of people. Students paying thousands of dollars for worthless training at fly-by-night schools? Scammers selling certificates to unqualified would-be personal support workers and security guards? How can this be happening in our province?
Premier Dalton McGuinty admits the government can do more to protect students from career colleges that promise more than they deliver and says he'll do more to find solutions. After a groundbreaking Star investigative series revealed the provincial colleges and training ministry is failing to protect students from such schools, the premier said he is well aware some students are losing money and ending up unskilled, unqualified and unemployed.
Ombudsman Andre Marin yesterday gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to a new ban on store owners selling lottery tickets to themselves. "It's refreshing to see how far the OLG has come," Marin said. "The old culture was one of hold your nose and give the fraudster the cheque."