About 150 Baycrest hospital workers let go after audit finds misuse in employee benefits

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WATCH ABOVE: Approximately 150 employees of Baycrest Hospital were told to resign or be fired after auditors unveiled $5 million in misappropriated health benefits. Sean O'Shea reports – Jul 11, 2019
Baycrest Health Sciences has confirmed to Global News that about 150 people are “no longer with [the] organization” after the hospital says an investigation revealed a misuse in employee benefits.

The hospital, located near Bathurst Street and Wilson Avenue in Toronto, said concerns were raised last year about some extended health-care claims employees were making under their benefits plans.

The organization hired a third party to conduct an audit, a Baycrest spokesperson said in a statement.

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“This audit found irregularities,” said the spokesperson. “We then conducted a workplace investigation, which found that a significant number of employees were misusing our benefits plan over the course of a number of years.”

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As a result, approximately 150 people were let go through a combination of terminations and resignations, according to the organization. Baycrest also said the employees involved were from a variety of job categories.

Baycrest Health Sciences, which employs about 1,800 people, said the losses are estimated at $4 million to $5 million, but the final tally — including the cost of unravelling the mess, hiring replacement staff and implementing preventative measures — has yet to be calculated.

One person scammed the plan, which is 75 per cent financed by taxpayers and 25 per cent by employees, by as much as $100,000, while most of those involved racked up about $20,000 in bogus claims, the hospital alleged.

The spokesperson also said the alleged scheme involved submission of receipts for services or products that weren’t received. In other cases, a person would claim reimbursement for an authorized item such as a compression stocking but use the cash to buy something else unauthorized.

“We want to assure our residents, patients and their families that we have a comprehensive plan in place to enable adequate staffing levels and maintain the quality of care we deliver,” the statement said.

The spokesperson added that the public dollars allocated to Baycrest are being spent to “ensure an exemplary care experience for the community we serve.”

The hospital said that its external benefits administrator will conduct additional audits. The hospital also said it will set up an approved provider network and further educate staff on the benefits plan, including how it can be misused, to ensure this doesn’t happen again in future.

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A spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said: “It’s clear that long-standing auditing weaknesses allowed this sort of brazen abuse to go unchecked for too long.”

“Minister Elliott’s immediate priority is ensuring that Ontario’s hospitals put in place the appropriate controls so that this will not happen again. To that end, Minister Elliott has already been in contact with and will be meeting with sector partners, including Baycrest and the Ontario Hospital Association, to further discuss their next steps.

“Minister Elliott has made clear her expectation that there will be no disruption to patient care as these issues are resolved.”

Founded in 1918 in downtown Toronto as the Jewish Home for the Aged, Baycrest Health Sciences bills itself as a global leader in geriatric residential living, health care, research, innovation and education. Among its specialities is a focus on aging and brain health.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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