In business with ex-official: troubling connections to Ministry of Health

A senior health ministry official managed to team up with a lobbyist to set up a company targeting his own ministry while earning his full public service salary.

Our Bureau of Investigation has found that Stéphane Brossard, Director of Information Technology at the Department, became President and shareholder of Plakett Digital Health on January 19th.

He officially left the ministry on February 11.

In his new professional adventure, the former senior officer is linked to Isabelle Girard, President of Plakett Clinical Services.

The company, which is little known to the general public, specializes in consulting services for clinics and primary care.

Plakett has multiplied its ties to the Department of Health for several years (see below). Ms. Girard is a lobbyist and has been awarded two contracts by mutual consent.

In addition to Stéphane Brossard, the company has hired the minister’s former senior political adviser and advised a former deputy deputy minister.

Ministry not informed

The Ministry of Health claims that Stéphane Brossard informed him on January 16 that he intended to give up his post to become self-employed.

However, he states that at the time he was unaware of the formation of Plakett Digital Health and Isabelle Girard’s role in that company.

“Back then the MSSS [ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux] has asked Mr Brossard not to start his business activities until he has left the MSSS,” said a ministry spokeswoman, Marjorie Larouche.

The regulations do not prevent a former manager from starting a business, but he must respect the applicable ethics and post-engagement rules.

“We have no information that leads us to believe that Mr Brossard has not complied with these rules,” specifies the Ministry.

No interview

When Stéphane Brossard was contacted by phone by our investigative office, he refused to answer our questions and promised to call us back. Rather, it was a PR firm that provided explanations via email.

“Due to our advisory mandates, most of Plakett’s team members may have come into contact at different times with staff from multiple departments, including the Department of Health, particularly Mr. Brossard,” said Maxime Couture of Catapult Communication.

For Professor Marie-Soleil Tremblay of the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), the situation is questionable.

“We’re in the gray area, there’s a reputational risk,” she said.

The public management specialist recommends a period of one year between a senior official leaving a ministry and being hired by a private provider.

“A certain distance has to be maintained between the public apparatus and the suppliers,” she said.

With Pascal Dugas Bourdon and Nicolas Lachance, Bureau of Investigation

The former deputy minister defends himself

A former deputy minister who later received advisory mandates at Plakett denies any favoritism.

Luca Bouchard.  Former Deputy Minister

Photo taken from Facebook

Luca Bouchard. Former Deputy Minister

Luc Bouchard left the ministry in May 2021. It was he who signed the two contracts given to Plaquet 2020 without competition.

Then, in the fall of 2021, he got two paid terms from Plakett.

First contacted by our Bureau of Investigation, he initially denied working for the company.

A few days later he admitted to having represented Plakett outside of Quebec.

The company assures two mandates that would not have exceeded a few hours.

In an interview, Mr Bouchard admits that as Deputy Minister he was in contact with Plakett and his President Isabelle Girard.

“Plakett is the company that works with FMGs the most [groupes de médecine de famille] and medical and other clinics […] In that, it is the authority in Quebec,” he argues.

OTC Contracts

One of the unrivaled contracts awarded to Plakett was to analyze various technologies for scheduling doctor’s appointments.

According to documents obtained as part of the access to information, Isabelle Girard presented her analysis to the Deputy Minister in November 2019.

For the same contract, she was also commissioned to study the computerization needs of medical specialists in private practice.

Today Luc Bouchard works at the Institute for the Relevance of Medical Records (IPAM). He admits he continues to meet with Plakett employees occasionally.

“We meet suppliers [notamment ceux référés par Plakett]. We listen to what they have to say That’s it. After that, we refer them to the Ministry of Health or the FMSQ,” he said.

IPAM was established under the agreement between the Federation of Medical Specialists of Quebec and the Treasury Board, led by Christian Dubé. The institute’s goal is to identify sources of annual savings in physician compensation.

  • Luc Bouchard gave a presentation on IPAM on May 13th during the Première ligne en santé symposium organized by Plakett.

4 examples of proximity

Recruitment of the Dubé consultant

Isabelle Girard and Stephane Brossard

Photo from the Plakett Clinical Services website

Plaquet recruited last January Patrick Emmanuel parents, senior political adviser to Minister Christian Dubé, who announced his resignation from the cabinet a month earlier. He said he learned after joining Plakett that the company was playing a strategic advisory role with the people involved in launching the physician scheduling orchestrator. This orchestrator is essential to the patient access window, one of the core pieces of the healthcare overhaul plan unveiled by Christian Dubé in March.

The minister gives a speech

Christian Dubé at a symposium organized by Plakett last May.

Photo from Plaquet’s Facebook

Christian Dubé at a symposium organized by Plakett last May.

The minister Christian Dub delivered the keynote speech at the last Symposium Première ligne en santé organized by Plakett on May 13th. Isabelle Girard also has ties to Deputy Health Minister Lionel Carmant. Last December, the two ministers also met again during an activity of the UP Pediatric Center in Brossard, accompanied by the boss von Plakett.

An active lobbyist

Isabelle Girard has been working for the Ministry of Health since 2017. She has notably represented the UP Pediatric Emergency Center, the Radiologix Group and the Carpe Diem Medical Clinic. His company also offered his lobbying support services. She is currently entered in the lobbyist register on behalf of the computer company Logibec.

Two contracts without competition

Plakett received two over-the-counter orders from the Department of Health in 2020. A first contract was awarded to provide an analysis of the different technologies for booking appointments with a doctor on the Internet. The company was also commissioned to use the “Orchestrator” for scheduling appointments in medical clinics. In both cases, the contract was conditionally granted by the contract management department. However, the comments on these reservations were redacted in response to a request for information to our investigation office.

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