Wanted: a new patient ombudsman in Ontario.
The province is launching a search to fill the $203,000-a-year (plus benefits) post left vacant since Christine Elliott left it two years ago to return to politics, and found herself health minister in Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet.
“We’re putting an emphasis on centring our health-care system around patients and a patient ombudsman certainly can help us focus in on the areas that need attention,” said Elliott, who was the first person to hold the position created by former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government in 2015 to boost transparency.
A recruitment ad posted by executive search firm Odgers Berndtson sets expectations for leading the patient ombudsman’s office, which has a staff of 18 and has been operating under an interim boss since Elliott’s departure two years ago.
“You will act passionately and independently on behalf of patients, former patients and caregivers who feel they have exhausted their options in the resolution of complaints about their case or the health-care experience.”
The office will operate under Ontario Health, the new superagency that is consolidating control of the health-care system with the goal of streamlining the patient experience and improving care, such as arranging better co-ordination of home care for recently discharged hospital patients who still need help.
“We’re going to open this up and get the best quality candidate,” said Elliott.
The ad notes the “vast majority” of complaints are settled within existing mechanisms, leaving the ombudsman as a last resort of sorts to work with patients, caregivers, health care providers and others to find a resolution to each problem.
Powers include investigating health-sector organizations and making recommendations to improve them, as well as making annual reports to the health minister.
“The successful candidate will be an extraordinary listener and communicator, adept at dispute resolution and collaboration, and a proven leader of change and people,” says the recruitment ad, noting proficiency in French is an asset.
Elliott had a reputation as one of the Liberal government’s toughest critics when she was named to the post that attracted more than 400 applicants five years ago.
“Christine Elliott’s advocacy for vulnerable people, extensive knowledge of the health-care system, and commitment to the betterment of this province make her the perfect choice for Ontario’s first patient ombudsman,” then-health minister Eric Hoskins said in a statement at the time.
Elliott resigned her Whitby-Oshawa seat earlier in 2015 after finishing as the runner-up to Patrick Brown in the Progressive Conservative leadership contest that year.
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When Brown abruptly resigned the job in 2018, Elliott ran again for party leader but lost a close race to Ford, who went on to become premier. Elliott then ran for a seat in Newmarket-Aurora and won.
As the Conservative health critic, Elliott was outspoken in exposing the Liberals’ shortcomings in the delivery of medical services for Ontario patients and was a high-profile advocate for ensuring better care for stroke victims and those suffering from rare diseases.