A criminal probe of Ontario’s air ambulance service has provincial police investigating “financial irregularities” at an agency that has been engulfed in controversy for months.
“The OPP is conducting an investigation into possible criminal activities on the part of Ornge air ambulance service,” police spokeswoman Cathy Bell said Thursday.
It’s the latest blow to Ornge, which receives about $150 million a year from the province to operate a non-profit air medical rescue and transport service. The agency, which set up a series of private for-profit entities, has been under fire for months over questionable business dealings and exorbitant executive salaries.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said she’s disappointed the police had to be called in.
“When I see what appears to be an abuse of taxpayer dollars in a health-care system that is under real pressure, when people in this province aren’t able to get everything they want when it comes to health care, it is a huge betrayal ‘ a betrayal of trust,” Matthews said.
Matthews cleaned house at the agency last month. She replaced CEO Chris
Mazza ‘ who was paid $1.4 million a year ‘ and the entire board of
One source who spoke on condition of anonymity said there were two red flags that prompted the ministry to call in the police. One concern was $6.7 million paid by helicopter firm AgustaWestland to an Ornge for-profit subsidiary controlled by Chris Mazza, Ornge’s founder and former CEO, the source said.
Another red flag was the $1.2 million in loans Ornge reportedly provided to Mazza on top of his generous salary, the source said.