The province has promised to provide community engagement guidelines to the Local Health Integration Networks following this summer’s Ombudsman’s Report.
In that report, the Ombudsman noted a board member of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN considered conversations on golf courses and grocery store line-ups as public consultation.
The guidelines, expected in October, can’t arrive soon enough.
At Wednesday’s board meeting of the South West LHIN, Dr. Murray Bryant said an integration proposal from St. Joseph’s Health Care and London Health Sciences “failed the most cursory test” when it came to public engagement.
Further, the $1.018 million project to consolidate breast cancer services comes to the LHIN for approval despite the fact that the plan is already being implemented.
Michael Barret, CEO of the SW LHIN did suggest the joint leadership of the two hospitals may have led them to believe an integration decision was unnecessary.
However, board members found it hard to believe that the largest hospitals in the region would be unaware of their obligations.
Board members did discuss holding up their approval for the project to “educate” the hospitals on the need for public involvement in the decision-making process, but opted instead to rubber stamp the proposal.
The same outrage could have been expressed for the integration to follow – the movement of 50 specialized mental health beds from Regional Mental Health – London to Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.
Among evidence of public engagement, CEO Cliff Nordal includes public hearings held by the Health Services Restructuring Commission – which issued its report in 1997. He also refers to meetings where staff was given their options with regards to transfers to Grand River – hardly a stunning moment of meaningful community engagement.
Staff at the mental health centre tells us that there has been no recent opportunity for the general public to provide input into the decision to move these beds to other communities. When the two Regional Mental Health sites are redeveloped in 2014, it is expected the London area will have about half its present number of mental health beds.
It is clear from the integration proposal that the four LHINs involved in the master plan have no intention on consulting on the master plan. Instead the transfers appear to be dealt with piecemeal. This is the antithesis of what the LHINs were supposed to be doing –looking at the broader planning needs of the region.
Looking at the community engagement descriptions in the various integration proposal documents, there is clearly one major input missing: what the community had to say.
Whoever designed the template forms for these proposals left this out. It suggests the LHINs are interested that consultation took place, not the substance of what was heard.
This makes a total farce out of the public engagement process, and leaves the false impression that there may have been consensus in these engagements. Nothing could be further from the truth.