Category Archives: Uncategorized

4,000-5,000 march on Queen’s Park to oppose privatization of hospital services

Thousands of Ontarians boarded buses in the pre-dawn hours to come to Queen’s Park to defend their public hospitals on Friday afternoon.

Organized by the Ontario Health Coalition, the demonstration was likely the largest of its kind in recent years despite the unusual cold November temperatures. Volunteers estimated the crowd at the height of the rally was between 4,000 to 5,000 people. Operation Maple’s video and our photos below. More to come on Monday.

Picture of Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French.

Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French addresses the rally.

Picture of large 12 foot tall Kathleen Wynne Puppet.

OPSEU Region 4 brought their new Kathleen Wynne puppet.

Picture of marchers on University Avenue.

Marching up University Avenue after speeches at on the lawn of Queen’s Park.

Pic of OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas addressing the rally.

Photo of marchers at Queen's Park.

Between 4,000-5,000 Ontarians showed up to support their local hospitals at Queen’s Park November 21.

Frustrated nursing staff quit CarePartners as OPSEU charges unfair labour practices

Photo of hands of health professional assisting an elderly female patient.

Nursing staff are leaving CarePartners in Niagara and Norfolk Counties as the employer thwarts efforts to secure a first collective agreement.

Continuity of care is important to the delivery of home care. Each time a caregiver changes there is a necessary rebuilding of relationships. If caregivers are continually turning over, it is much more difficult to notice changes in the patient’s medical condition. For example, if a nurse never saw a wound before, how can she or he tell whether it is healing properly? Much of the care work is intimate in nature and subsequently relationships built up over time are important.

In 2003 the not-for-profit Victorian Order of Nurses lost the Community Care Access Centre’s visiting nursing contract in the Niagara region during a year in which the community was celebrating VON’s centenary. We were told over and over that the competitions were about quality, not necessarily price.

In the subsequent contract turnover one of the companies – the for-profit CarePartners – simply could not recruit sufficient experienced staff to successfully take over care from the VON. Instead they shuttled nursing staff from other operations around the province to do what they could to shore up their contract obligations. We heard first-hand patient stories about missed visits, about an inability to contact CarePartners over the weekends, about stressed staff rushing in and out to keep up with an impossible workload.

Of those few nurses who transitioned from VON to CarePartners, in 2005 we were unable to successfully argue in court that this represented a sale of business, and subsequently those workers were unable to retain their rights or union. Many of the VON’s original staff decided to find work elsewhere.

It’s more than 10 years later and the Niagara and Norfolk County staff of CarePartners chose OPSEU to help them seek a first collective agreement with the company. CarePartners is a much larger corporation these days thanks to an initial merger with Red Cross and the subsequent purchase of Red Cross’ home support operations.

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Revera’s shallow hypocrisy on PSW compensation

Photograph of cars through a wet windshield to illustrate Revera's decison to claw back mileage rates from their PSWs.

Corporate giant Revera is clawing back mileage rates from home care PSWs, potentially jeopardizing the province’s workforce stabilization plan. Photo:

Home and residential care giant Revera say they are proud to support Ontario’s wage stabilization initiative for personal support workers (PSWs). Now that their home care workers have received the $1.50/hr wage increase, the corporation is telling the non-union portion of their workforce they are clawing back 8 cents per kilometre in compensation for travel between clients. In other words, they wanted government to pick up the bill for improved wage compensation so they could trash travel compensation for the same employees. That may not be what Health Minister Eric Hoskins had in mind with the Ministry’s workforce stabilization plan.

For some workers, the Revera claw back on mileage could eclipse the wage increase, leaving the government no further ahead in improving compensation to stem the tide of PSW departures. The turnover rate for PSWs in Ontario’s home care sector is 60 per cent – or the entire workforce in less than two years. That, by any standards, does not represent good continuity of care. Given Revera professes their number one goal is to help their clients, this gives every appearance they are more concerned about helping their profits.

A $1.50 per hour increase would total $52.50 before deductions on a 35 hour week – that’s slightly more than most PSWs would receive in paid hours. The loss of 8 cents per kilometre means that the wage increase would be wiped out if the worker drives more than 656 kilometer in a week – a cumulative distance not that uncommon particularly in more rural settings. Further, the company is not reimbursing on actual kilometres travelled, but based on the “optimal” route using Google Maps. Better not divert for gas, a Tim’s coffee or to avoid traffic and construction through an alternate route.

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OHA HealthAchieve: Wrestling with the role of patients in the system

Photograph of Harvard professor Michael Porter speaking at this year's Ontario Hospital Association HealthAchieve.

Harvard professor Michael Porter speaking at this year’s OHA HealthAchieve.

There was an epiphany moment at this year’s Ontario Hospital Association HealthAchieve when a hospital administrator responsible for patient surveys admitted that she had been doing it all wrong. The surveys were all about the hospital’s performance, not about the patient, she said.

We are in the age of continual measurement as administrators try to reduce the business of providing health care to a series of performance data tables. One could argue that surveying patients about their care is about improving the patient experience, so one has to wonder where the sophistry ends and where practical management begins?

At this year’s conference there was plenty of angst about the role of the patient in determining how health care is delivered.

Paul Corrigan, a former health advisor to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, made a less than convincing case that health care providers should be basing their decisions around outcomes defined by the patient instead of the health professionals. Instead of a surgeon deciding a procedure has been a success, for example, that success should be defined around whether the patient achieves his or her goal to “walk to the shops,” for example. It’s perhaps a good thing that Corrigan didn’t encounter a patient whose goal was to play piano at Carnegie Hall.

“Hearing what patients are saying would be transformative,” says Corrigan, the implication being that we don’t.

Sir Nigel Crisp, a former senior manager in the UK’s National Health Service, ramped up the rhetoric by going as far as saying “professionals need to get down from their pedestals and patients up from their knees.” Seriously?

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Hoskins unveils Health Plan v. 2.0 at OHA HealthAchieve

Photograph of Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins speaking at the Ontario Hospital Association annual conference.

Dr. Eric Hoskin, Ontario’s Health Minister, speaks about his top four priorities at HealthAchieve November 5.

Ontario’s health minister has what he calls Health Plan version 2.0.

Speaking at the closing of the Ontario Hospital Association’s annual HealthAchieve conference, Dr. Eric Hoskins revealed his top four priorities after less than five months on the job.

Few would disagree with them given they fit well within the modern paradigms of health system redesign, but getting there may be a different story.

It’s not surprising that a redesign of home and community care is the first priority. News from the Champlain CCAC must be vexing the new Minister as patients in need of long term home support are being dropped from care and the bar has been set exceptionally high for new patients to access service. Sadly, CCAC staff have been told to direct patients to paid out-of-pocket forms of care or to social service agencies with long waits, raising the question whether the government is letting the principles of Medicare slip away under Hoskin’s watch?

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Hospital funding freeze, high admin costs show up in quality indicators

For all the shortfalls in Ontario’s health system, the reality is that despite having among the lowest per capita levels of funding, the province is matching if not excelling the Canadian average in many categories measured by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Whether this reflects well on Ontario or badly on the rest of the Canada is an open debate.

CIHI is widely respected as being an unbiased source of information for health planners although they remain at the mercy of local health providers who provide the inputs.

Mortality rates, for example, have been known to fluctuate widely once a hospital has learned to game the system. Only unexpected deaths count, so most deaths become expected.

CIHI has established a site where you can compare provinces on 37 indicators. Just enter your province and determine whether you want the summary or the detailed report. (Click here to access the site)

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Desperate governments the best customers of multi-national corporations – conference

Photograph of professor Dexter Whitfield speaking at the NUPGE privatzation conference.

Dexter Whitfield, Director of the European Services Strategy Unit and Adjunct Associate Professor, Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre, University of Adelaide. Whitfield spoke at an Ottawa conference this week noting the acceleration of privatization during periods of austerity.

Canada has the dubious distinction of being a global leader when it comes to outsourcing and privatization of public services and infrastructure.

The rush to outsource comes with very little debate in our legislatures and rarely rises above the noise during general elections. Yet it represents a fundamental shift in how we access government services.

We’re in Ottawa this week for a national conference organized by the National Union and the Public Services Foundation of Canada on new forms of privatization. The message is clear – no public sector worker is safe from a tsunami that threatens to cut jobs, reduce wages, degrades public services, costs more, reduces accountable and ultimately attacks democracy.

Privatization and outsourcing take various forms, including public-private partnerships, social impact bonds, direct service contracting and even the transfer of funds to individual users who are forced to become their own employer.

Dexter Whitfield, a professor at Australia’s University of Adelaide, notes that private-public comparisons are often misleading, pitting new proposals against the status quo rather than a comparable public option. Not only are in-house proposals discouraged, but are actively blocked.

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