Category Archives: Uncategorized

Enough already – Stop public funding to Mike Harris’ pet institute

Kathleen Wynne should say enough is enough.

Why is the Harris-era Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity still receiving nearly $1 million a year in public funding to manipulate the public towards some of the most ludicrous right wing ideas?

Earlier today Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management, delivered an eight-point “working paper” that is the most regressive health care advocacy document we have ever seen in this province.

The paper essentially advocates for the end of Medicare as we know it.

Instead of addressing inefficiencies – and there are many in our present public/private system – it goes after working people and the poor to pay for more of their own health care. That’s hardly our idea of reform.

In one scenario, while it advocates a co-pay amounting to up to three per cent of your annual income to access public health care, it caps families with an income of more than $100,000 per annum to $987. Only those under $10,000 per year would be exempt, leaving many under the poverty line to still pay more.

Is Roger Martin really that big of an idiot, or is the point of the Institute to shout out the most extreme ideas imaginable in the hopes that watered down elements will be found acceptable by comparison?

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Tommy Douglas never said health care would be free — advisor to Premier

Roger Martin at Breakfast With The Chiefs

Roger Martin advocates government treat worker health plans as a taxable benefit.

Is Roger Martin having us on?

This morning the publicly funded Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity released a working paper on policy opportunities for Ontario’s health care system during Longwood’s Breakfast With The Chiefs speaker series.

Roger Martin, the former Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, was breezy in his presentation of the paper’s eight big ideas.

Some of it is the predictable low-hanging fruit, such as the need to get on with electronic medical records, reforming primary care delivery and focusing on end-of-life care (which accounts for one-third to one-half of a person’s lifetime health expenditures).

More alarming, three of the recommendations are essentially a manifesto for shifting the cost of health care away from the collective to the individual, and especially to low-income Ontarians.

In the brief question period after Martin’s presentation, his argument for co-payment on health care costs failed to get much attention despite being the most radical. Perhaps the audience felt it so far-fetched it was unlikely to get any traction from government despite coming from an advisor to the Premier.

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Providence Care expresses regret over memorial but fails to make it right

At a point you’d think somebody would stop and ask a few questions.

Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father's memory.

Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father’s memory.

Last week we reported on how Kingston’s Providence Care cut down the trees and removed the plaques associated with a 25-year-old memorial garden to former staff who had passed away. The removal of the memorial garden was in preparation for a new building to replace the aging mental health and rehab hospitals in the city.

This week Providence Care expressed regret that this had taken place without prior warning or communications to staff and community. They also committed to planning a rededication – that is once they figure out who had once been memorialized there.

Providence Care admits that while an inventory of the trees had taken place, there were “very few existing written records of the memorials and dedications that existed throughout the site.”

In other words, they don’t know.

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Seeking Solutions: June mental health meeting to take 360 degree look at violence and workplace safety

OPSEU’s Mental Health Division is bringing together experts from across the province to take a 360 degree look at the issue of violence and workplace safety. Scheduled for June 17-18 in Toronto, this two-day event is intended to start a dialogue towards engineering a safer environment for both staff and patients. That includes sessions where we turn to the participants to contribute their own best practices.

Studies tell us that patients suffering from mental illness are no more prone to violence than the general population. Yet incidents of violence vary greatly even among comparative mental health environments in the province. Why it is at some hospitals Code Whites – a response to aggressive behaviour — are a daily occurrence, while at others they are a rarity?

Jeff Moat, Partners for Mental Health

Jeff Moat, Partners for Mental Health

How can we address the issue of violence without contributing to stigma? What role do least restraint policies play, and can they be better implemented? What kind of training should be available to staff to better handle these situations? What existing legislation exists, and what are the gaps? What happens when professionals conduct this work in the community? What role does the workplace environment play?

Speakers confirmed so far include:

Glenn French — President and CEO of the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence
Heather Stuart — Bell Canada Mental Health & Anti-Stigma Research Chair, Queen’s University
Jeff Moat – President, Partners for Mental Health
Nancy Casselman — Director, Human Resources & Organizational Quality, Safety and Wellness at Toronto East General Hospital
Lori Schindel Martin – Associate Professor, Ryerson University
Warren (Smokey) Thomas – OPSEU President
Lisa McCaskell — OPSEU Senior Health & Safety Officer
Marty McFarlane – OPSEU Education Officer

The new Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, has also been invited to open the meeting.

Survey

The event will also look at the result of a workplace violence survey that has been sent out to all Mental Health Locals. If your local health and safety members haven’t filled out the survey yet, please do so as soon as possible by clicking here.

Who is eligible to attend?

Every OPSEU mental health local has been invited to send their highest ranking member or their delegate, plus a member from each health and safety committee.

If you are eligible to attend, please contact your local executive as soon as possible about registering for this event. Space is very limited.

We won’t have Medicare II without federal leadership — Himelfarb

Alex Himelfarb.

Alex Himelfarb.

Alex Himelfarb understands the 2004 10-year health accord better than most. At the time it was negotiated, he was the highest ranking civil servant in Ottawa.

The $41.3 billion Accord was supposed to fix health care for a generation. It would reduce wait times, provide catastrophic coverage for costly prescription drugs, focus on strategic health human resources, invest in first dollar coverage for home care, conduct primary health reform, and increase accountability and reporting to citizens through the Health Council of Canada.

Himelfarb, now director of York University’s Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, doesn’t dispute that it failed to reach expectations, but argues that has a lot to do with the Harper government which never wanted the plan to work.

“They didn’t do all they had to do as a government, then said it didn’t work,” Himelfarb said last week at a luncheon held by the Canadian and Ontario Health Coalitions.

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Significant risks face Ontario’s plan to shift hospital services to private clinics

Wednesday night's panel on speciality clinics -- Natalie Mehra, Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. John Lavis.

Wednesday night’s panel on speciality clinics — Natalie Mehra, Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. John Lavis.

Dr. Danielle Martin looks uncomfortable discussing the government’s recent plan to move hospital services into so-called specialty clinics.

On the one hand the VP of Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital sees patients every day who she believes could be better served in a community-based setting. On the other, this transfer of services out of hospitals to local clinics runs many risks, including what Martin acknowledges could be “an erosion of Medicare.”

Speaking Wednesday night at a forum organized by the Medical Reform Group at OPSEU’s Toronto Wellesley Membership Centre, Martin admits that in many ways “the horse is already out of the barn.”

That is not in dispute.

Ontario already has 939 independent health facilities; of which 904 provide specific diagnostic tests such as diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine tests. The remaining 35 provide surgical or therapeutic procedures such as abortions, laser dermatology, and opthamology. Almost all of these independent health facilities are run on a for-profit basis.

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Briefs: Providence CEO heavily rewarded before jumping ship from CCAC

The Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn is certainly raising a storm over the rewards the province’s 14 Community Care Access Centres have been bestowing on their CEOs during a period of intense provincial austerity.  The Auditor General of Ontario is now looking into the operations of the CCACs, although a full report is not expected until 2015.

When Hepburn first raised this issue the Sunshine list for 2013 earnings had not been posted. The big winner between 2009-2012 was the Central LHIN’s Cathy Szabo, who had seen her compensation bumped up by about 50 per cent from 2009. Apparently that was not enough. Today Hepburn reports that in 2013 Szabo had seen her salary bumped up again – from $271,734 to $277,609 – an increase of $5,875 or 2.1 per cent. Over five years she has seen an increase of $97,604 – or almost enough to make the sunshine list all by itself.

Szabo may be relieved to be in Kingston, having been recently announced as the new CEO of Providence Care. There is no word on what her salary will be, but her predecessor Dale Kenney took home $336,779 plus another $22,197 in taxable benefits in 2013. If she makes anywhere near that amount, Szabo will have seen her compensation nearly double since 2009. Restraint, what restraint? Cathy — we’ll see you at the bargaining table.

Who decided Victoria Day would be a good time to celebrate PSWs?

We’d love to know how PSW (Personal Support Worker) Day is decided? In 2012 it was on May 16 – the Wednesday before the long weekend. Last year it was inexplicably changed to the Sunday of the long weekend – May 19. This year it is once again being celebrated on May 19 – which falls squarely on Victoria Day. While PSWs do work 24/7, many would still normally have the holiday off. That means in workplaces PSW Day will be celebrated without many of the regular PSWs present. However or whoever decides this should rethink the timing – not all professional days are necessarily celebrated on the same calendar day each year. The event could, for example, be celebrated on the Thursday before the long weekend annually or placed at a totally different date that doesn’t run into the distraction of a long weekend. Other professions do operate this way – perhaps the Ontario Personal Support Worker Association should give this more thought.

Media wrong about Romanow Commission’s view of Pharmacare

We were recently fortunate to be at a meeting with Steve Morgan, the BC Academic who was responsible for writing the Pharmacare section of the Romanow Commission into the Future of Health Care in Canada. While the media regularly suggests that the Romanow report abandoned the goal of universal Pharmacare to pursue catastrophic coverage instead, Morgan insists that catastrophic coverage was meant as a step towards universal Pharmacare, not a replacement. Universal Pharmacare has been a goal even before the inception of Medicare in Canada. It was part of Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas’ plan for phase two of Medicare. It was also recommended by Justice Emmett Hall in his 1964 review of public health insurance in Canada. Every developed country with a universal Medicare plan has some form of universal Pharmacare coverage – except for Canada.

Will advanced IT be the saviour of Ontario hospitals?

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has a simple vision: better data, better decisions, healthier Canadians.

It does appear at times that we are drowning in data, raising the question of how accurate and timely it is, how it is used, and whether we have the smarts to draw the right conclusions from it. Hospitals have at times complained that the breadth of data demanded by the province raises the spectre that too many priorities means there are no priorities.

The choice of what data to collect can create incentives that may not always be the best. The focus on hospital length of stay, for example, has led to charges that patients are being sent home early without adequate care.

However, health data can tell us a lot about how we use the health care system and where to put our resources. One hospital executive noted at a recent Longwood’s conference on Big Data that many of their emergency room readmissions came from patients who lived alone – information that would be useful in planning and justifying enhanced home support.

Despite the existence of CIHI, not every health provider is on equal footing when it comes to utilizing information technology.

The evidence does suggest that the information savvy providers are capable of achieving better health outcomes than the information poor. That’s been the mission of HIMSS – the Healthcare Information and Management System Society — for more than 50 years.

HIMSS certifies health care provider organizations according to their adoption and use of electronic medical records. For many, it is the Holy Grail in achieving quality service delivery.

Dr. Larry Garber, Medical Director for Informatics at the Massachusetts-based Atrius Health spoke recently at the Longwood’s Big Data conference at the Rotman School of Business.

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Tonight: Medical Reform Group roundtable to examine controversial policy

The government’s decision to have hospitals compete with independent health facilities for the right to deliver services ranging from cataracts to colonoscopies is among the most controversial ideas to emerge recently from the Wynne government.

The Ontario Health Coalition recently completed a campaign that gathered more than 56,000 postcards expressing opposition to the plan.

Doctors in rural communities are worried that losing these services could endanger local hospitals.

Yesterday doctors in Midland said removing cataract surgeries from the Georgian Bay General Hospital and contracting it to a private clinic in Barrie or elsewhere could mean the end of opthamology services in the area.

“Removing cataract procedures from our small hospital would impact allied services,” writes Dr. Martin McNamara, the hospital’s chief of staff, in a recent public letter to the LHIN.

Doctors fear that this could be the beginning of the stripping of local services that could result in the demise of the hospital.

Is it possible to be in favour of a more robust community sector without threatening the stability and scope of services at Ontario’s hospitals? Or do community-based services have to inevitably come from Ontario’s already struggling hospital sector?

Wednesday night (April 9) the Medical Reform Group is hosting a panel discussion in Toronto on whether community-based specialty clinics can deliver better outcomes for patients, providers or the health system as a whole.

Moderated by Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, the panel includes Dr. John Lavis, Director-McMaster Health Forum; Dr. Danielle Martin, VP Medical Affairs, Women’s College Hospital; and Natalie Mehra, Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Dr. Danielle Martin.

Dr. Danielle Martin.

While a regular meeting of the Medical Reform Group, others are welcome to attend this free event. To do so, please RSVP to medicalreform@sympatico.ca or call 416-787-5246. Space is limited.

The Medical Reform Group is a voluntary organization of physicians, residents, and medical students committed to universal high quality health care for all Canadians.

The panel discussion takes place Wednesday, April 9 between 7-9 pm at OPSEU’s Wellesley Membership Centre (lower level), 31 Wellesley Street East (across from the Wellesley subway station). Please be on time — doors will lock after panel begins.

Stumped – Kingston’s Providence Care erases memorial to former staff

Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father's memory.

Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father’s memory.

“It felt like digging up his grave,” said Terry Haffner.

A housekeeper at Kingston’s Providence Care, Haffner was disturbed to find a memorial garden to long-serving staff had been cut down and the plaques removed by the hospital without any notice to the families of the deceased or the union who had represented them.

One of those deceased staff members was Terry’s dad Neil, who had worked at the former Kingston Psychiatric hospital from 1961 to his retirement in 1993. Neil passed away in 1996.

When Neil’s tree was planted, his son kept it watered and tended in the early days until it grew hardy enough to withstand the extremes in weather so close to the lake.

It was Terry’s father who told him to apply for a job at the mental health centre in the 1980s. His dad recognized that the heavy construction work his son was doing at the time would be difficult to maintain as he got older. For many years they travelled to work together.

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