Kudos to Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, for pointing out governments looking to contain costs and provide better service should address mental health issues within their own workforce. Writing in the Ottawa Citizen last week, Quenneville points out that every day 500,000 Canadians are absent from the workplace because of mental health problems. Someone suffering a mental illness will be absent from work on average twice as long as someone with any other disability. Mental health illness account for about 30 per cent of short and long-term disability claims. Clearly this is not just an issue with government, but with all employers. The CMHA CEO does acknowledge that many municipalities are already beginning to address the issue through wellness programs and education programs that particularly address stigma. Earlier this summer Partners for Mental Health launched their own workplace program “Not Myself Today.”
The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported over the summer on what could be a groundbreaking piece of research being conducted by Dr. Evelyn Forget at the University of Manitoba. From 1974 to 1978 Dauphin Manitoba took part in a unique “labour market experiment” in which locals were given a guaranteed annual income supplement to keep them out of poverty. The CMAJ says the experiment folded as a result of high interest rates and declining political interest in the concept. However for the last three years Dr. Forget has been wading through 2,000 boxes of data from the experiment. The data she is uncovering provides strong evidence that lifting people out of poverty has a remarkable effect on population health, especially with regards to mental health. Surprisingly, taking people out of poverty also reduced accidents and injuries. She also found that families kept their kids in school longer under the guaranteed income program. Given the revival of political interest in the social determinants of health, Dr. Forget’s ongoing research around a 35-year old experiment may pay some social dividends.
Dr. Alex Hukowich used to be one of the more interesting board members to watch at the Central East LHIN. A former medical officer of health in Northumberland County, Hukowich always has a knack for cutting to the chase. We can only presume he is the same Alex Hukowich from Cobourg that has written a letter to the Toronto Star on the issue of corner stores selling drug paraphernalia. Noting these are often hubs for children, Hukowich writes “do we really want or need these same stores being trusted with the sale of beer and wine?” The association representing convenience stores has been pushing the government to open up sales of beer and wine in corner stores, including a petition campaign last year. (In the interest of disclosure, OPSEU represents workers at the LCBO, which would stand to lose in that scenario, along with Ontario taxpayers who benefit from profits being turned over to government to provide such services as health care. That was a bit more than just a disclosure, wasn’t it?)
This spring we celebrated the government’s announcement that it was dramatically increasing the number of nursing home inspectors. We had previously pointed out that less than one in five homes were getting the new “resident quality inspection” on an annual basis. Health Minister Deb Matthews announced that 100 new inspectors would be added at a cost of $12 million and that RQIs would be annual for each one of the 633 long-term care homes in the province. Imagine our surprise when we saw display ads in the media advertising for 50 temporary positions for long-term care homes inspectors. The ads stated that these would be 12-month positions with “possible extensions.” If someone at the Ministry would like to contact us, we’d love an explanation. These RQIs won’t be annual for long if the new inspectors are only temporary.
Nothing gets us more worked up than the implementation of public austerity measures during a weak economy. As predicted, when the Wynne government started slashing, the provincial economy also took a beating. With both the federal and provincial governments cutting back, it is a double whammy that may yet lead us back into recession, as austerity has done to a number of European countries. When the economy shrinks, so does government revenues. When government revenues shrink, things get mighty difficult in our sector. Veteran journalist Nick Fillmore recently contacted us to see if we could help spread the word about his new BLOG post that looks at how national austerity politics have come home to roost for millions of Canadians. To read Fillmore’s post, click here. Nick was a news editor and producer with CBC for 20 years.
Finally, here’s a story that has us totally gobsmacked. The Hamilton Spectator is reporting that Hamilton Health Sciences does not know how much its executive staff expensed from 2007 to 2011. They say to do so would involve retrieving 23,500 paper invoices from its off-site storage and manually sorting through them. The newspaper reports that the Privacy Commissioner ruled HHS expense records should be readily and routinely available. The hospital says the earliest it could sort through the records of 63 executive and board members is December 31st. HHS told the Spec that it would initially cost $12,889.77 to make the information public, then later waived all but $3,600. For 2012 CEO Murray Martin tendered more than $36,000 in expenses, about a third of them for charity and hospitality. Maybe they could have used a portion of that money to buy themselves something called a computer to keep track of this information?
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