Saturday Diablogue story pile-up

In sports they call it plays of the week. For us, it’s just our way to address the pile up of issues surrounding health care this week.

Labour issues are very important to us given OPSEU presents more than 41,000 members who work in our health system, about 700 more having voted to join us in just the last month. They include health care workers at such diverse locations as Orillia’s Soldier’s Memorial Hospital, London Health Sciences, the Oshawa Health Centre and Trellis Mental Health and Development Services, located throughout much of Southern Ontario. Therefore the Ontario PC white paper proposing changes to the province’s labour laws certainly caught our attention. What was more surprising, as our translator pointed out, is the Tories rushed it out in English only. Do the Tories understand there are more than 580,000 francophones who live and vote here? The PC web site offers no French button like we do here at Diablogue.

Canadian Blood Services has announced it is opening a second National Contact Centre (NCC) in Saint John, New Brunswick. The announcement follows CBS’ closure of its blood distribution centre in that city earlier this year. The present NCC is in Sudbury, Ontario. CBS Chief Operating Officer Ian Mumford says Saint John was chosen because of the presence of a bilingual workforce, although the city of 128,000 (metropolitan) is one of the more anglophone parts of the province. It has a large cross at the tip of the downtown peninsula celebrating the arrival of the Irish. The most recent census shows a little over 5,000 residents who have French as their mother tongue. Did Mumford confuse Saint John with Moncton? Mumford also says a second national call centre is necessary “for business continuity,” suggesting that “in the event of a crisis, people who need to contact Canadian Blood Services will always be able to do so.” Crisis? This is a phone centre that handles both inbound and outbound calls with donors and arranges appointments for the donation clinics. Ontario politicians may want to pay attention to the jobs, as Mumford is stating the current contact centre work will be redistributed and that additional information will be provided after a “more detailed staffing analysis is complete.” CBS closed its Thunder Bay operation in April of this year, shedding about 25 northern jobs.

It’s not often we get to extend kudos to Heath Minister Deb Matthews. Matthews went public this week expressing opposition to the Federal government’s cuts to the Interim Health Plan for refugees. Matthews vowed she would not turn away those in need of medical treatment despite the anticipation of an influx of patients with “avoidable health conditions” to hospital emergency. In her letter to Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Matthews stated “by abdicating your responsibility towards some of the most vulnerable in our society, you have effectively downloaded federal costs onto the provincial health care system.” Bravo, but wait a minute, did she really say “to hospital emergency?” Perhaps in her haste she forgot to say “urgent care centre.”

In a related item, Andrew Boozary, a Canadian Doctors for Medicare student board member, wrote an open letter this week also regarding the Federal cuts to refugee health care. The son of a refugee, Boozary said the cuts were close to home. “My father quickly picked up on social ethic that unites our country – one that places acceptance over tolerance, and the shared view that opportunity has as much to do with support as it does with freedom.” To read the rest of Boozary’s letter, click here. Today is the last day before the new rules come into effect.

While we are on the topic of kudos, a shout out should go to the board of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital. The board actually stood up and rejected a plan by senior staff to cut services in order to balance its budget this year. The hospital finished its fiscal year in March with a $700,000 deficit. Too often we see hospital boards that are little more than a rubber stamp of senior management. In a motion to reject the proposed performance improvement plan, the board noted “implementing this revised Performance Improvement Plan would affect our community’s health adversely.” After voting down the plan in May, the province appointed Toronto East General CEO Rob Devitt to head up a peer review of the hospital.

Health Quality Ontario, an arm’s length government agency, notes Ontario is actually going backwards with regards to its efforts to reduce waits for hip and knee surgeries and cataracts. The waits grew by about three weeks between 2005 and 2009. Dr. Ben Chan told the media one-third of urgent cancer and hip and knee surgeries are not done within the recommended time frames. For all the efforts to reduce ER waits, the province is not reaching its targets there either, although overall waits have come down in the ER by about half an hour. Worst of all is the waits for access to specialists, of which he says Ontario has one of the worst international track records. Chan says Ontario’s health system is “under intense pressure” by what he says are spiralling costs, an aging population and government budgetary austerity (emphasis added).

Have a great Canada Day everyone!

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