Category Archives: Health System

Press conference aborted after doc asks question about cuts to refugee health plan

University Health Network CEO Bob Bells tried to apologize after a doctor and a medical student interrupted a press conference by Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver at the Toronto General Hospital yesterday.

Is this really Dr. Bell’s role?

The doctors vow to “interrupt” the Harper government over their cuts to the Interim Federal Health plan for refugees to Canada due to take place June 30.

The cuts remove so-called supplemental health services from newly arrived refugees, the Harper government stating that these are not services normally covered for most Canadians. This is not entirely true.

In fact, similiar health services are normally made available to Canadians on social assistance. Most refugees arrive in Canada without money for dentistry, drugs and other non-insured services.

As Dr. Chris Keefer states in the video, these are similiar to services available to Ontario Works recipients.

CBC’s clip of the aborted news conference is below:

 

Read about the open letter sent by AMMI Canada regarding the Harper cuts.

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Frail and elderly asked to pay more in Ontario

Frail and elderly residents in Ontario’s nursing homes may be paying in more ways than one for the province’s budget shortfall.

While Health Minister Deb Matthews is holding the line on increases to long-term care funding to 2.8 per cent (only 1 per cent dedicated to direct care), she is asking residents to kick in a lot more than that.

On May 30th the Ministry issued a bulletin to say the basic co-payment rate is increasing by $1.81 per day. That amounts to a 3.4 per cent increase.

The premium rate is also increasing from an additional $8 a day to $9 a day for semi-private (8.8 per cent) and from $18 to $19.75 a day for private (9.1 per cent).

Depending on the accommodation level, that could mean a hike of between $54 and $106 per month.

This comes at a time when Deb Matthews is also holding the line on the Ministry’s complement of inspectors, who say they are so short-staffed that homes will be waiting as long as five years for a detailed inspection.

While business is being told to wait for another cut in their taxes, frail and elderly residents are being asked to pay more for their care.

A reminder of what we’re fighting for

OPSEU represents about 36,000 health care professionals and support staff who work in settings ranging from community mental health to large urban hospitals.

When it comes to this BLOG, we don’t hide our perspective as workers.

We hope that those who read our BLOG do so with the understanding that the stories we write about and the positions we advocate are with the intent of building a better public health system.

We are aware that not everyone shares that goal. Since Medicare was founded, there have always been those who would undermine it, and sometimes it makes for odd bedfellows in the opinion pages.

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, are we building on Tommy Douglas’ legacy, or are we tearing it down by only pointing out the system’s weaknesses?

It was therefore refreshing to see a letter this week in the Windsor Star by health reporter Veronique Mandal that points out what we hear too seldom – for most of us, the health system still works.

“As a health reporter, I have written hundreds of stories about Canada’s health system – some were laudatory, many showed its shortcomings and failures,” she writes.

The public letter goes on to thank the “doctors, nurses, admitting and technical staff” at Windsor’s Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital who saved her life April 20. Mandal doesn’t specify what her medical emergency was.

Mandal says that “being rescued from the brink of death is a profoundly life-changing experience.”

At Diablogue we often write about hospitals being overcrowded, cuts to cleaning and its impact on infection control, unhealthy and inedible rethermalized food, poor performance scorecards and the perils of privatization. At the end of the day, however, most hospitals still score above 90 per cent in patient satisfaction surveys and Canadians are still embracing our public Medicare system.

For all the problems, we’re obviously still doing some things right.

This does not mean that everyone is getting the care they need, or as the province likes to rhyme off, we’re not finding the right care in the right place at the right time. Not yet.

Letters like Mandal’s do remind us what we are fighting for.

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Ontario budget “Republican-lite” — Roth

Ontario’s deficits have more to do with unsustainable tax cuts than they do with public spending says Dr. Reuben Roth, a Laurentian University sociologist.

Roth was speaking Tuesday night in Oshawa as part of a province-wide series of town hall meetings hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition.

“Ontario is no Greece and no Spain,” says Roth, “but we inherited two structural deficits from the Harris government.”

Laurentian University's Reuben Roth with Natalie Mehra

Laurentian University’s Reuben Roth with Natalie Mehra

Roth explains that tax cuts and high unemployment have contributed to the current deficit – neither of which are the result of spending on health care and public services.

Roth says the government even brags that Ontario spends the least on program spending than any other province in Canada.

“If we are the lowest, then why cut more?” he asks.

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Diabetes epidemic finds Health Canada more worried about fragile economic recovery

Apparently regulating fast food companies to improve population health is not an option for Health Canada, who recently told CBC News that the “fragile economic recovery” is an important consideration.

Health Canada was responding to a report by the Canadian Medical Association Journal which noted sodium levels were higher in Canada’s fast food outlets than their counterparts in other countries.

The Chicken McNuggets you eat in Canada have more than twice as much salt as the McNuggets in Britain. While Canadian fast food outlets brought in salads in response to growing health concerns, these salads have higher levels of salt than any other nation. Combined with high fat levels in the dressing, you might as well have had the fries.

This week ICES – the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences — issued what is effectively a wake-up call on Ontario’s spiralling diabetes epidemic. Hint: there may be a connection between these two stories.

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Austerity costly to UK economy – is Ontario headed the same way?

The McGuinty government is big on British policy imports, from the costly public-private partnerships to his recent mania for austerity.

If you want a preview of what’s going to happen in Ontario, look to Britain.

This week it became official. Britain is back in recession after having two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Since the austerity-minded Cameron government came to power in 2010, net growth in the British economy has only been an anemic 0.4 per cent. During the last two quarters Britain’s economy has shrunk by 0.2 per cent – this at a time when they had been predicting modest growth.

While cutting taxes at the top end of the scale, Cameron’s belief in “trickle-down” economics has led to considerable criticism of his economic policies, Cameron himself described as “speaking for the few.”

Like Ontario, Cameron’s government is implementing the harshest public sector cuts in a generation.

Sound familiar?

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Two-tier dogma from an Ottawa hospital chief

Some days it just feels like whack-a-mole.

It’s another city, another privileged individual, and another plea for two-tier medicine.

Michel Bilodeau, described by the Ottawa Citizen as the dean of Ottawa’s hospital chiefs, says he supports the right of Canadians to buy private medical insurance to pay for health services covered under Medicare.

Bilodeau was recently enticed out of retirement from his $373,000/year job at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. He is serving as interim chief at Bruyere Continuing Care after the former CEO abruptly resigned.

Bilodeau says we have to stop considering the current system as dogma and look at what works and what doesn’t.

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New! Province-wide forums on Ontario health cuts

While the media have portrayed health care as one of the winners of the spring budget season, the reality is the 2.1 per cent average increase in health funding over the next three years will represent major restraint on services. Last summer the Auditor General of Ontario described the previous target of 3.6 per cent as “aggressive” in his pre-election report, suggesting it would lead to a choice between hospital deficits and cuts to services.

The situation is particularly clouded for hospitals, which not only face a zero base budget, but are contending with a new funding formula that could see them receive even less than they did last year.

The Ontario Health Coalition is holding a series of town hall forums across the province in May and June to talk about the impact of the budget on the delivery of public health care.

Sara Labelle

Sara Labelle

Confirmed speakers include economist Hugh Mackenzie (Hugh Mackenzie and Associates), Dennis Howlett (Coordinator of Canadians for Tax Fairness), Trish Hennesey (Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Income Inequality Project) and Natalie Mehra (Director, Ontario Health Coalition).

Speakers from OPSEU so far include Sara Labelle (Chair, Health Care Divisional Council), Sandi Blancher (Vice-Chair, Hospital Professionals Division) and Marlene Rivier (President of Local 479, Royal Ottawa Health Group and Chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition.)

Speakers will vary by location.

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Freedom of Information: $1637.76 to access info from 20 hospitals

Now that hospitals are subject to Freedom of Information requests, how accessible will this information really be? It all depends on the hospital and how much money you have.

It cost us $1,637.76 to find out what the ratio of staff to management was at 20 hospital corporations. That includes the $5 processing fee it takes to initiate the request.

Hospitals came under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act on January 1st of this year, although the Ontario Hospital Association sought and received additional exemption from divulging quality information under specific circumstances.

For years we have heard front line staff complain that their numbers have dwindled while the ranks of management have increased. We decided to test that question with requests to 20 randomly selected hospitals where OPSEU represents members. This includes four mental health centres – Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre, Whitby’s Ontario Shores, London’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre (Regional Mental Health), and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.

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Austerity amid incredible wealth — Yalnizyan

Economist Armine Yalnizyan reminds us that the present call for austerity is taking place amid a period of incredible wealth.

Speaking at a Students for Medicare Conference in Toronto March 31st, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative economist said this debate is taking place amid a backdrop of growing income inequality.

“We’re standing in the middle of the industrial revolution,” she said. “Global wealth is expanding exponentially. We have more access to stuff than ever before.”

Economist Armine Yalnizyan speaking at the Students for Medicare Conference March 31.

While the rich were also affected by the economic crisis of 2008, having lost on their investments, she says they have bounced back much faster than the rest of us.

There is a growing consensus among major institutions – including the Bank of Canada — that growing inequality is a major problem.

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