One of the key issues raised in the Ombudsman’s recent report, “The LHIN Spin” is how public consultation is dealt with.
With voluntary integrations (for example a hospital initiated change to service), there is no requirement for the LHIN to consult the public if it agrees with the integration proposal. However, there is a requirement on the part of the health service provider to do so.
The Ombudsman reports that “while LHIN officials acknowledged that they do have a role in ensuring that a health service provider conducts stakeholder outreach, they stated that they relied on and trusted the information provided by Hamilton Health Sciences concerning its efforts to obtain public input.”
However, in the case of Hamilton Health Sciences, the LHIN did not even request any of the results of that consultation.
In theory, the community could be uniformly opposed to a decision, offer good alternate proposals, and none of this would ever inform the LHIN when they made their final decision. Such disregard for the content of these consultations suggest the LHIN was not interested in what the community had to say, only in the fact that it was consulted and legal obligations were met.
In the case of Hamilton Health Sciences, when the Hamilton Spectator contacted the hospital to ask about results from their consultation, HHS said the results were recorded in the form of “personal and mental notes” and been the subject of “debriefing conversations.” In other words, consultations were held, but nothing was really recorded for review by the LHIN or others.
Further, in the case of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN, the board was told not to attend health service provider consultations sessions to hear for themselves what the public had to say.
A hospital has every incentive to filter what they have heard in order to support the proposal they are bringing to the LHIN. If neither staff nor board from the LHIN is attending these sessions, and if no real documentation is made of concerns raised at these meetings, the LHIN will have no idea if the hospital’s representation of those comments was fair
In the case of Hamilton Health Sciences, it was clear they didn’t even care.
The Ombudsman makes a recommendation that “adequate records of community outreach should also be kept and made available to ensure that stakeholder views are accurately represented.”
LHINs do not permit deputations to its board meetings. Given the community cannot rely on the self-interest of health care providers to accurately reflect their view back to the LHIN, they should have the opportunity to do it themselves.