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Members of Vitalité Health Network's board of directors, from left to right: Réjean Després, Johanne Thériault Paulin, Julie Cyr, Thomas Soucy, Claire Savoie, Yves Francoeur, and Jacques Doucet. Image: Submitted/Vitalité Health

Vitalité board supports president amid travel nurse controversy

By Brad Perry Jun 11, 2024 | 6:30 AM

Vitalité Health’s board of directors are standing by their president and CEO amid the travel nurse controversy.

A scathing report from the province’s auditor general last week said the health authority did not provide information to his office as required.

Paul Martin said the health authority refused to release a series of internal audit reports it had conducted.

“Due to the lack of cooperation from Vitalité, risks that may have been identified in the audit reports and to what extent those risks were addressed is not known,” said Martin.

Vitalité had spent over $123 million on the use of contracted health-care workers as of the end of February, with over $93 million going to Canadian Health Labs.

Martin found that Canadian Health Labs (CHL) charged significantly more than the others to provide registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and personal support workers.

The CHL contracts gave the company the right to deploy a minimum number of staff teams regardless of the actual need, according to the report.

In addition, one of those contracts allows for annual automatic renewals for up to five years if the company meets its obligations for fulfilment and language.

Vitalité’s board defended its decision not to release three internal audit reports in a statement released Monday.

“The decision to withhold internal audit reports was taken by the Board following a legal opinion on privilege and an in-depth analysis of the risks involved in sharing these documents,” said the statement.

“Since Vitalité Health Network is currently involved in a dispute with one of the targeted agencies, sharing these documents could jeopardize ongoing negotiations with that agency.”

Vitalité would have shared information from the reports in exchange for a non-disclosure clause, but the auditor general refused, the board argued.

While the current board members were not in office when the contracts were signed, they would have approved the use of agency staff, said the statement.

“Vitalité Health Network was facing a perfect storm, characterized by a major labour shortage and growing needs for health care and services. Essential services were threatened, putting patients at risk.”

Vitalité’s president and board chair are among those scheduled to appear before a legislative committee next week to answer questions about the auditor general’s report.