Oh come on now. Attending question period at Queen’s Park can be an exercise in frustration as the opposition’s questions and the government’s answers seldom align.
You can ask anything you want, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the government will provide you with an answer that remotely addresses it.
Yesterday NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked the Premier about an 80-year old patient at the London Health Sciences Centre who says he was told to clean his toilet.
Joseph Cummins was not just any patient – he is a retired professor of genetics at Western University and knows about hospital-acquired infections.
According to today’s Toronto Star, Cummins wandered out into the ward looking for someone to clean the bathroom he shares, at first finding no professional staff on the ward. Cummins admits to having had a mishap after being given a strong laxative and wanted to ensure it was cleaned up.
He did find the person he describes as having served him his breakfast, who Cummins says told him he needs to control his bowels. Hard to do when you are given a strong laxative and are in hospital with pneumonia.
Cummins says there were no cleaning tools, which led him to use towels to clean up the mess.
Horwath asked in the legislature whether this is what the government had in mind when Kathleen Wynne spoke about health transformation.
“It doesn’t take an expert to tell us that patients shouldn’t be cleaning their own toilets,” said Horwath. “London Health Sciences is planning to lay off an additional 60 staff even as this government lets hospital CEO salaries skyrocket.”
Health Minister Deb Matthews took the question , not once mentioning the incident in her home town of London.
“The transformation is underway,” she said. “I acknowledge that hospitals are dealing with challenging decisions, but there is no question: the system is stronger.”
It’s an odd turn of phrase when describing a patient who claims he was told to clean his own hospital toilet.
To be fair, outside the legislative assembly Matthews later did say she expected the hospital to investigate and said the incident was unacceptable and should have never happened.
There is no question that staffing is under stress all across Ontario, not just at London Health Sciences. The fact that Cummins found nobody on his ward is in itself disturbing enough.
The hospital did use the Rob Ford defense and denied the incident ever took place, prompting Cummins to say he had witnesses to the event. Did anybody talk to them?
Given the hospital says it already investigated and concluded no incident had taken place, this would be an opportune time for an independent body to take a look at the claims – perhaps the Ontario Ombudsman?
The NDP had made the pitch to expand the Ombudsman’s scope to include health care, but so far the government has balked despite being the last province to do so.
Without an objective third-party to determine what really happened, I might just be inclined to grab a bottle of Mr. Clean and some paper towels if I was staying overnight at London Health Sciences. Just to be on the safe side.