Ontario’s health minister getting demoted?

I wandered over to the west side of Montreal’s downtown tonight. I was able to pick up a copy of the Toronto Star and the front page story is about a cabinet shuffle in Ontario. Health minister and deputy premier George Smitherman is being moved to a new “super portfolio” of energy and public infrastructure renewal. The current public infrastructure renewal minister will become health minister with the elimination of his portfolio.

On first glance, this shuffle appears to be about moving Smitherman into a new portfolio to oversee the new government priority of building new nuclear plants. (Getting this done on time and on budget will be no small feat.)

However, Smitherman is under heavy fire in the health portfolio for his lack of management of the province’s C. difficile controversy. About 260 people have died from C. diff infections in Ontario hospitals. The minister has taken the position that there is not really a crisis, that hospitals have the situation under control and has dismissed call for either a public inquiry or investigation by Ontario’s ombudsman.

Smitherman also has a really bad habit of saying stupid things, especially under fire. The diaper comment earlier this year comes to mind right away. Last week, he took on Ontario’s ombudsman when the ombuds called for increased accountability for Ontario’s hospitals – the only hospital’s in Canada not accountable to a provincial ombudsman.

All of this gets *The Hamilton Spectator *asking if Smitherman’s shuffle is really a demotion in disguise. The choice of replacement makes me think so, David Caplan proved himself more than able to fix scandal during the Ontario Lottery Corporation “insider wins” scandal.

Bringing Caplan in to deal with the growing C. diff. scandal is a smart move. The Liberals need to get control of this situation and quickly. Yesterday, we knew about 260 people died because of C. diff.

This morning on its front page, The Spectator reveals that C. diff outbreaks have occur at three times as many hospital than was publicly known yesterday, including one hospital in which an outbreak occured last month. This means the death count is going to spike sharply.

Contrary to Smitherman’s claims, thinks are not alright at Ontario hospitals.

For a political party that won power in part due to public outrage over the deaths of five people during the Walkerton tainted water crisis,  you think they would be doing a better job dealing with the crisis.