The MUHC is expecting to eliminate 45 jobs -- and possibly many more -- as it struggles to cut $50 million in spending.

The layoffs come as the McGill University Health Centre deals with cost overruns in constructing the superhospital, including nearly 900,000 hours of unauthorized work, a plan to build a $30 million outpatient clinic on Cedar Ave. that requires rezoning which the city of Montreal will not allow, and hefty renovations to the Montreal General Hospital.

At the board of directors meeting Monday night, CEO Normand Rinfret said the hospital system will look at running operating rooms more efficiently, and has already targeted $25 million to cut by implementing a freeze on hiring and equipment purchases, examining contracts with suppliers and chipping away at redundancies.

“(This will be done) through a gain of efficiencies and productivity,” said Rinfret. “As soon as I have the information I am putting it out there and yes there are discussions that are going on with the unions.”

There will most certainly be layoffs. As many as 45 jobs could be lost, for example, if several MUHC laboratories are consolidated as planned.

Task forces will examine ambulatory care and improvements the OR's pre-operative system.

“You have the same quality for your patients but because you've been more efficient in the way the process is working you're able to work maybe with one less OR,” said Rinfret.

A report on the MUHC’s budget for 2012-2013 projects a roughly $115 million deficit, shrinking to $12.3 million by 2014-15.
See the end of this article for a deficit breakdown.

Low morale among staff

The cuts come at a time were morale is already at an all-time low, largely due to allegations of fraud leveled against former MUHC director Arthur Porter, as well as a land deal that has been roundly criticized by auditors.

Workers said they are nervous they’ll be obligated to pay for the mistakes of the past.

“We have nothing to do with what's happening in upper management in terms of scandals and money and all that, but we are the ones being penalized,” said MUHC nurse Melgatha Richards.

Until there are answers about allegations of fraud by Porter and others, many suspect the mood will be tough to lift.

“MUHC is not one person, MUHC is all of us and with this going on we are affected,” said Line Larocque, president of the union representing nurses, nursing assistants and cardiorespiratory staff. “We are worried how the people outside will look at us.”

According to a La Presse report Monday, Porter, who is being treated for cancer in the Bahamas, denies allegations of bid-rigging on the superhospital contract and even threatened to disclose damaging information on others.

In order to cut $50 million in two years to tame its deficit, the MUHC will sell the controversial land at 1750 Cedar Ave., which was bought while Porter was director, and was condemned as a "hazardous adventure" by auditors.

There is a silver lining, however, said current director Normand Rinfret.

“We have confirmation that there's nobody at the MUHC that's currently under investigation,” he said. “Naturally this brings a sentiment of, ‘What did happen?’ but at the end of the day we have to focus on what we have to do.”

Until the method of the cuts are revealed, however, a culture of paranoia and misinformation is being cultivated., said MUHC nurse-clinician Jaqueline Waldron.

“There's a floor at the Montreal General Hospital that they were working on the weekend and everything was going as usual and suddenly someone arrived on the department and said, ‘By the way, do you know your department is closing?’ So these people were devastated,” she said.

That information is unconfirmed by hospital administration, but regardless, said Waldron, the story illustrates the mood amongst employees at the MUHC.

“When you decide you have to cut 50 million, you need to speak to the people at the front lines and get their opinion. Where can we cut? We know. We're there, we know what can be cut,” she said,

Many MUHC employees feel left out of the decision-making process, said union officials, adding that they plan to step up the pressure in the weeks and months to come to change that.

Poter donated to Tories while heading spy watchdog

Arthur Porter was a donor to the federal Conservatives during his time at Canada's spy watchdog, public records show.

But his contributions appear to have run afoul of guidelines that all members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee must abide by.

Elections Canada records show Porter gave the Tories the maximum donation allowed by law over a period spanning the weeks leading up to his appointment to SIRC through to his rise as chair.

The former head of SIRC now faces allegations of fraud in one of the country's most expensive infrastructure projects.

The Canadian government is trying to extradite Porter from the Bahamas, where he runs a medical clinic and is apparently cancer-stricken. He has said he is too ill to travel, and he denies the allegations against him.

Until recently, Porter -- a medical doctor and cancer specialist -- was a reliable Conservative donor.

Porter made two donations totalling $1,100 less than three weeks before Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him to SIRC in September 2008.

In 2009, he made two more donations for a combined $1,100.

Harper appointed Porter chair of SIRC in June 2010. That October, he once again donated as much the law let him.

Porter resigned from SIRC in November 2011. Elections Canada records show he has not given money to any political party since 2010.

Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey declined to speak about Porter's donations.

"We have no comment," he said in an email.

SIRC executive director Michael Doucet told The Canadian Press all committee members are briefed by the Privy Council Office on, among other things, the rules that apply to them when it comes to political activities.

Those rules advise against making donations, joining a party or running as a candidate in an election.

"The members and the chair come to us having been briefed, and having the PCO doing their thing with them as privy councillors," Doucet said.

It appears Porter did not follow those guidelines.

"Potentially," Doucet said. "We'd really have to talk to the PCO, because that is their bailiwick."

Porter's days as a Tory donor stretch back nearly a decade.

Elections Canada records show Porter gave the Conservative party $1,000 in September 2004. In January 2006 -- three days before Harper's Conservatives came to power -- Porter donated another $1,000 to the party.

In October 2006 -- before donations were capped at $1,100 -- he made a $1,275 donation to the Conservative riding association of Laurier-Sainte-Marie in Montreal. Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe held that seat from 1990 until being toppled by the NDP's Helene Laverdiere in the last federal election.

It appears likely the October 2006 donation was part of a fundraiser or event. Nearly 400 people donated to the Conservative riding association of Laurier-Sainte-Marie on the same day as Porter, Elections Canada records show.

Porter did not immediately return a message left with a receptionist at his clinic in the Bahamas.

No one else in recent years appears to have given money to a political party while heading up SIRC.

Porter's predecessor, Gary Filmon, made no donations to political parties or local riding associations during his 2005 to 2010 term as SIRC chair, according the Elections Canada records.

Nor did another former SIRC chair, Paule Gauthier. Her term as chair ran from 1996 until 2005.

Gauthier told The Canadian Press she does not recall SIRC having any rules about political donations.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Carol Skelton was appointed to SIRC in 2010 and took over as temporary chair after Porter resigned. She did not make any political donations during her time as interim chair.

Porter is among the five people named in arrest warrants issued by Quebec's anti-corruption squad, in the case of the $1.3-billion construction of a Montreal mega-hospital.

The others are: former SNC Lavalin senior executives Pierre Duhaime and Riadh Ben Aissa, Yanai Elbaz and Jeremy Morris, the administrator of a Bahamas-based investment company.

The warrants say the men are wanted on numerous charges -- including fraud, breach of trust and document forgery. They say Porter and Elbaz are suspected of having accepted bribes from some of the others.

In addition to being head of SIRC, Porter was also the director general of the McGill University Hospital Centre when the alleged fraud occurred.



The MUHC’s deficit is broken down thusly:

MUHC annual operating budget: $1.018B

Baron report (Dec. 2012)

Forecasted budget deficit

2013-14 budget target

2014-15 budget target

Gov't authorized deficit: redistribution of network deficit





Operating deficit in $





MUHC operating deficit





RI-MUHC operating deficit





5252 de Maisonneuve





Total operating & recurrent deficit










One-time deficit





1750 Cedar





RVH Foundation receivable write-off





Total non-recurrent deficit










Total projected deficit as of March 31, 2013 in $








With a report from The Canadian Press