The Local Health Integration Networks were initially set up to involve communities in the decision-making process around delivery of regional health care.
We have witnessed health care providers, such as hospitals, coming forward to the LHINs with proposals to shift services, identifying how they engaged stakeholders in the planning process before coming forward with a plan for integration.
Recently we contacted the Champlain LHIN to ask if the same process is applying to the recently announced changes to service at The Ottawa Hospital, including the so-called “transfer” of endoscopies and cataract services to unidentified providers within the community.
Much to our surprise CEO Chantale LeClerc replied that no integration is triggered because the hospital was making these changes under the terms of its accountability agreement.
If a health provider has to close or transfer a service to balance their budget, LeClerc is essentially saying you don’t need to follow the requirements of integration or involve the community.
This is ridiculous policy and means nobody ever really has to consult the community as long as the changes reflect a need to reach a balanced budget. How is this planning in any way, shape or form?
What’s disturbing about the recent hospital belt-tightening is that the claims this is about restructuring are not being substantiated with any clarity about where services are migrating to. Nor do we know if these transfers will really save the health system any money. For all we know, The Ottawa Hospital is shedding responsibility to keep their books in the black.
A simple look at the numbers would suggest these services are not really being transferred anywhere. The idea that the current activities are all about restructuring is just so much political cover for very unpopular cuts to Ontario’s jammed hospital system.
The fact that a LHIN is just providing political cover doesn’t bode well for their own continuance.
In a time when they could be protecting the public interest, they prefer to offer us excuses over why they remain hands off.
If this is the way it is, then maybe it is time to rethink the LHINs altogether.