LHINs grapple with consistent approach to community engagement

The 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) are grappling with a common framework for community engagement.

The issue came to the Central East LHIN January 26th where board members wrestled with the idea of community empowerment versus the LHIN’s own legislative responsibilities.

James Meloche, a Senior Director with the LHIN, raised as a positive example the citizen’s jury model used by Northumberland Hills Hospital during its reorganization last year. Northumberland Hills used a random selection of local citizens to give advice on changes to the hospital.

Many in the community felt that the group had been manipulated by the hospital and that they hadn’t represented the significant dissent in the community towards cuts proposed by the hospital.

Meloche said that while the LHINs were instructed to come up with a common framework, there would still be flexibility for the individual LHINs to determine their own processes. “The paint will never be dry on how you operationalize this,” he said.

Board member Stephen Kylie said the idea of a Citizen’s Jury bothered him, that it may be viewed by the community as elitist.

Foster Loucks, Chair of the Central East LHIN, said he was concerned about the absence of reference to government relations or the involvement of labour, including union and non-union employees. Loucks said the framework appeared too focussed on health care providers and stakeholders.

Loucks also said it was important to communicate how the information shared in these consulations would be used in the decision-making process.

Meloche said the drafters of the framework “didn’t have a heavy dose of realism.”

He also spoke of the need of health care providers to do their own consultation. “We cannot be the only community engagers in the system,” he said.

The LHIN postponed any endorsement of the draft framework to their next meeting in February.

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