Procuring through a distributor: Set expectations early!

When procuring goods our clients are sometimes faced with purchasing a good through a third party distributor rather than directly from the manufacturer of the good. An indirect purchase through a distributor can be problematic from a contractual perspective if the distributor is not willing to take full responsibility for all aspects of providing the relevant good (e.g., the delivery, performance, installation, and maintenance of the good, as applicable). Distributors sometimes attempt to avoid providing all of the product representations and warranties that would routinely be provided by a manufacturer of goods. A distributor may be hesitant to provide warranties on a good that it has neither manufactured nor tested itself.

In some such situations, a distributor may seek to share the risks related to the supply of a good by requesting that the purchaser enter into separate agreements with each of the distributor and manufacturer. The agreement with the distributor would identify such things as the products being purchased, pricing, and delivery terms, while the agreement with the manufacturer would address such things as product warranties, specifications, and service or maintenance terms. In our experience one of the primary difficulties of a two contract approach in this type of arrangement is that, unless the risk allocation terms of the two contracts are very carefully drafted and responsibilities are clearly delineated, the result could be that the purchaser is unclear as to which party is responsible for which obligations and risks. If something goes wrong, a purchaser could find itself in a situation in which all parties are pointing fingers at each other because the relevant contracts do not provide sufficient clarity as to which party bears responsibility for a particular type of damage.

The best case scenario from a purchaser’s perspective is for the purchaser to enter into only an agreement with the distributor, rather than agreements with both the distributor and manufacturer. This agreement with the distributor will require the distributor to take full responsibility for all risks related to the good and its supply to the purchaser. If the distributor wants the manufacturer to share responsibility for the good, then the distributor can enter into a separate agreement with the manufacturer to allocate risk between the distributor and manufacturer. This agreement would be separate and apart from the purchase agreement between the purchaser and distributor.

One solution that DDO has used to help avoid debate about what contractual arrangements will be utilized when purchasing through a distributor is to address this issue at the request stage of a procurement. If a purchaser requires, as a condition of participation in its RFP (or other requesting document, as applicable), the distributor to agree that it will be directly accountable to the purchaser for all risks and obligations related to the provision of the required good, then the purchaser can avoid having to negotiate this aspect of the contractual arrangements at a later stage in the procurement process. In this way we find that we can avoid some headaches related to a purchase through a distributor.

Drafting Research Funding Agreements

Innovations in health care are often the result of research and development initiatives. Such initiatives cannot be carried out without funding. Many broader public sector organizations that carry on health-related research in Ontario rely heavily on:

  • partnerships with private sector corporations; and
  • charitable donations from philanthropic individuals and organizations,

to fund their research activities.

If your broader public sector organization receives funds from corporate partners or charitable donors, then you should ensure that the agreements, through which your organization receives such funds, are properly drafted. If not drafted with some forethought, your organization could agree to contractual obligations that conflict with its legislative or regulatory requirements.

For example, a corporate partner that is providing funding to a public hospital for a research initiative may expect that the hospital will utilize the funder’s brand of equipment to carry out the research. However, the purchase of equipment by a public hospital in Ontario must be carried out in compliance with the Broader Public Sector Procurement Directive. A hospital cannot purchase a significant piece of equipment without abiding by fair and transparent procurement processes, unless the procurement falls within an exemption or circumstance of non-application under applicable procurement regulations.

If created with care, a funding agreement could be drafted in a manner that allows a purchasing organization to satisfy conditions imposed on the funds by a funder, while still allowing the purchasing organization to be in compliance with its procurement (and other regulatory) obligations. DDO would be happy to provide advice on options for drafting your organization’s funding agreements.

Bill 74 – What Does it Really Mean?

This blog delves into what Bill 74 will really mean for the Ontario health care system – what exactly is changing? What powers will the Minister have, what powers will the super agency (Ontario Health, or OH) have, and what if any powers will remain with the LHINs? What are integrated care delivery systems (ICDSs) and how do they fit into the scheme of things?

Specifically, this blog answers the following questions:

  • What is Ontario Health?
  • How are the rules for OH different than the rules for LHINs, CCO, TGLN, etc.?
  • What is happening to the LHINs under Bill 74?
  • What’s the impact on HSPs?
  • What’s the impact of Bill 74 on those HSPs like public hospitals and LTC homes that were exempted from some of the LHINs’ powers under LHSIA?
  • Are integration powers broader/different than under the LHIN legislation?
  • What’s the impact on the ability to issue binding directives to HSPs?
  • What’s the impact on the ability to appoint investigators and supervisors over HSPs?
  • What’s the impact on funding of HSPs?
  • What are these new ICDSs?
  • What exactly happens when the Bill passes, and what may happen later?

Note of Caution

As I write this, we’re only at second reading. Details in the Bill may change.

This analysis is not intended to be comprehensive.

Overview – The Evolution of Power Distribution

Bill 74 is essentially a redraft and revisioning of the LHIN legislation (the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006, or LHSIA). Of course, the current government isn’t a fan of the LHINs. So Bill 74 (the Connecting Care Act) is LHSIA on steroids.

As the LHINs evolved under the Liberal government, day-to-day integration decisions about health service providers (HSPs) were devolved from the Minister to the LHINs, along with the responsibility for funding of HSPs. The Minister gave over significant power, reserving for the Ministry powers over integration orders that create what I call “extinction level events” (ELEs). When I refer to ELEs in this blog, I’m referring to integration decisions that require a HSP to:

  • wind-up, dissolve or cease operating
  • amalgamate
  • transfers all or substantially all of its assets to another entity.

The 2016 Patients First Act amended LHSIA so that the LHIN had even greater powers unilateral powers:

  • To issue binding directives to HSPs
  • To appoint investigators and supervisors over HSPs (with notable exceptions for long-term care homes and hospitals).

The 2016 Patients First Act gave the Minister parallel new powers over LHINs – showing that the way the Minister would control the health care system would be by using the LHINs as its operational agencies. The Minister could issues directives to the LHINs, and the LHINs could then pass them down to the sector, in addition to the LHINs’ own unilateral powers. And if the LHINs got out of hand, the Minister had the ability to appoint investigators and supervisors to turn things right. Government also controlled LHINs through the appointment of their board members through Orders-in-Council.

Fundamentally, Bill 74 is repatriating powers back to the Minister. And the Minister may then delegate all of those powers (except for regulation-making) to the new health care “super agency”, OH.

Bill 74 will dissolve the LHINs – not immediately, but eventually and with certainty.

  1. What is Ontario Health?

OH is the new “super agency” that is going to assume the mandates of the 14 LHINs and the following other six government agencies:

  • Cancer Care Ontario (CCO)
  • Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN)
  • eHealth Ontario (eHO)
  • HealthForce Ontario (HFO)
  • Health Shared Service Ontario (HSSO)
  • Health Quality Ontario (HQO)

OH is going to be a hugely powerful agency. The Minister may delegate all of her powers (except for regulation-making) to OH. Depending on the extent of delegation by the Minister of her powers to OH, it could become all-powerful over Ontario HSPs. We will have to see how this evolves.