Best of Diablogue in 2013 (so far)

It’s time for our annual summer break here at the Diablogue. This year our readership has almost doubled from 2012 and more than tripled from our humble beginnings in 2010. More of you are also sending us story leads as well as leaving behind comments, most of which we have posted.

There have been nearly 900 posts since we began the Diablogue in January 2010. It’s hard to use a search engine on just about any health question without coming across one of our posts. We’ve heard from politicians, journalists, community activists, think tanks, union activists, hospital executives, health care practitioners and more. Even the Ontario Ombudsman has taken the time to retweet some of our stories.

It has become a recent tradition to highlight some of the best of the year (so far) before we embark on vacation. Here are some stories you may have missed:

Making history in Niagara-on-the-Lake

It is better known as wine country, but activists from across Canada will be descending on the resort town of Niagara-on-the-Lake July 24-25 to talk about protecting and enhancing Medicare. The “Shadow Summit” and rally will take place a few doors down from the meeting of the Provincial Premiers — the last before the 2004 10-year health accord expires.  Our story speaks about the reasons you should be there and includes downloads of registration forms and the colourful event poster. Click here to read it. As part of the lead up to that meeting, the Council of Canadians are asking us to make a video in which we tell our personal stories about encounters with the health system. Diablogger Rick Janson did just that here.

Need a lift from downtown Toronto? Region 5 is organizing a bus for the rally on the 25th. See Activists’ calendar at right for details.

Paying for Plasma

Last year we wrote about a private for-profit company that is setting up two clinics in downtown Toronto to collect plasma from paid donors. The plasma they collect will be manufactured into pharmaceutical products.  Paying for blood donations is a major shift in this country and counters the direction of most other nations on the globe. This spring CBC’s The National picked up on our story. The resulting storm has led to a recent “consultation” by Health Canada on the issue and an earlier round table in April in which we weren’t invited. Could it be we have a perspective that would rather not here? Click here to read more.

Suddenly everyone is talking about a national drug plan

Earlier this year we suddenly noticed pharmacists were subscribing to our BLOG in considerable numbers. Even Globe and Mail columnist Andre Picard was retweeting our coverage of the Vancouver conference Pharmacare 2020. Across the country there is a growing consensus that it is time Canada caught up with the rest of the world in providing us with a universal drug plan. The biggest surprise is that we would actually save money by doing so.  Our coverage started in Vancouver in February, we caught up with a smaller-scale meeting in Toronto in April and in May we were in Ottawa for another major Pharmacare conference hosted by the Canadian Health Coalition.

P3s — Another zombie idea that never seems to go away

This spring we were in Kingston to support the local community upset that a planned new hospital will be partially privatized. Dozens of groups got involved in an Ontario Health Coalition campaign that asked citizens directly what they thought of the idea.  Across the city polling stations were set up on a freezing Saturday in April to allow residents to vote on the issue. About 10,000 Kingston residents did just that — 96 per cent voting to keep their hospital entirely public. To watch our video on voting day, click here. To see OPSEU’s commercial that aired during the campaign, click here. To read our response to the hospital’s misleading assertion that nothing will change under the P3, click here.  A little after the campaign in Kingston, another P3 hospital opened in St. Thomas proving why this method of building new hospitals is a bad one. Our story subsequently got picked up by the London Free Press. If he whole issue of P3s confuses you (it mostly just gives us a roaring headache), we put together a rather tongue in cheek primer.  Click here for a taste.

Video, video, video

There were a number of videos that we posted that generated significant interest. The first wasn’t actually ours, but we found it compelling enough to link to. A lot of you took interest in Dr. Yoni Friedhoff comments originally meant for a small food industry association breakfast. Just days before the event, the organizers uninvited Dr. Friedhoff without any explanation. He decided to post his speech on-line instead. To see Dr. Freidhoff’s comments, click here. In February we had the opportunity to participate in a development trip to Nicaragua with the Cobourg-based Horizons of Friendship. That visited included a rare tour inside a Maquila factory where workers earn $50 a week to make Levis Dockers pants. To see our video, click here. The video became particularly relevant after two events — the first being the flap over the Royal Bank bringing workers from India to learn from their Canadian counterparts, and then take their jobs. The second being the Bangladesh factory collapse. Finally, another contributed video gave many of you a smile. This one an Ottawa parody of Gangnam Style that promotes unions. Right on!

Leona Aglukkaq — worst federal heath minister ever

We normally keep our comments focused on the actions by Ontario’s health ministry, but the goings-on in Ottawa could not be overlooked. Last year you may recall federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq was mostly missing in action when the partial shut down of Sandoz’s Quebec production line created considerable shortages of intravenous drugs for our hospitals.  When she was asked in Parliament this year about eroding wait times, she cryptically decided to talk about two NDP MPs who were having problems paying their taxes. Upon getting invited to participate in a major conference on drug coverage that was taking place within a five minute walk of Parliament, Leona not only had something better to do, but appeared confused as to what the Federal role on pharmaceuticals actually was.  Leona ducks the media so often, we began to wonder if the real health minister wasn’t her spokesperson Steve Outhouse.

A victory on long term care inspections

Last year we raised the question of inadequate inspections of Ontario’s nursing homes. While the province had introduced a thorough new inspection process called the Resident Quality Inspection (RQI), they never put in place sufficient inspectors to carry it out. Seems the inspectors were tied up with more than 2,500 individual complaints called into the provincial hotline set up for long term care. After a tragic death at a Scarborough nursing home, Health Minister Deb Matthews did the right thing and dramatically increased the number of inspectors and made it mandatory that every home undergo an RQI annually. It is our hope that the stepped up inspections will finally drag the province into the realization that the problems the inspectors are investigating mostly revolve around the lack of staffing in these homes.

And then you have home care…

We thought we had a victory in home care when the province appeared to finally cast off the destructive competitive bidding system. However, now they have cooked up a new scheme in which private for-profit companies will be handed wads of cash and will determine themselves how to best serve home care patients. They won’t have the kind of pesky interference from the province’s case managers who question things like why nobody showed up for Mrs. Jones visit today. The thing is, while it is called outcome based funding, the private companies still get 90 per cent of the money regardless of how many visits they make, the type of professionals/support staff they use, or whatever happens to the patient. Sounds like the true outcome will be to have the province fleeced of all that new money it’s putting into home care. To read more, click here.

Well, that’s a taste of what we have been talking about. There’s so much more, including Federal cuts to refugee care, hospital cuts, and Tim Hudak’s wacky ideas about how to make us all so much poorer. We start up again August 12. Hope to see you right back here! Thanks for participating.

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