Public services are lost one at a time, often incrementally.
Take the Shelburne Hospital. Once a partner site of Headwaters Health Care, services were removed from the community one-by-one until eventually the entire hospital closed with barely any protest.
The Ministry of Health prefers to place health services into community-based settings, but the sector is notoriously unstable, often reliant on volunteer donations to make up a percentage of operating costs. When those volunteer donations dry up, many small agencies shutter their facilities before the LHINs can even assess the impact on access to local health services.
Two Toronto artists who call themselves the “Department of Public Memory” are commemorating public services lost in their municipality. That includes placing signs around the city reminding residents of what was once there.
It’s a brilliant idea to illustrate how our city is changing and who is being left out in the process. Their latest project is one such small but valuable health agency that didn’t succeed.
In April the city lost Perram House — a downtown residential hospice providing end-of-life care. The hospice was particularly known for its sensitivity in dealing with clients who included the homeless and marginalized. It was one of only three hospices in a city of 2.79 million people.
Shortly after the Perram House professional and support staff organized with OPSEU, the hospice’s board decided to shut down the service. After a lengthy wage freeze, the volunteer board was looking for further wage concessions as part of a first collective agreement. Not only was this unfair to the Perram House staff, but hardly bode well for the future sustainability of the hospice.
A closure represents an “integration decision” for the Toronto Local Health Integration Network, but like other small agencies, Perram House shut down without any public consultation or discussion of how these services would be delivered going forward. Staff and residents were given little notice. The Community Care Access Centre had to scramble to find alternate end-of-life care for Perram House’s remaining clients.
On October 5 at 2 pm the Department of Public Memory is holding a public commemoration that will include a new street sign reminding us of what Perram House once meant. All are welcome to attend. The sign will go up at the site of Perram House, 4 Wellesley Place in Toronto.
The commemoration should also pose the question why valuable public services are not properly funded. It’s hard to believe that one of the largest and wealthiest cities in North America cannot sustain just three hospices to provide end-of-life care to its citizens.
The Department of Public Memory says their job “is to maintain memory of Toronto’s public services, particularly those that have been lost due to funding cuts and those that have suffered long-term underfunding despite ever-increasing demand for the services they provide.” Perram House is certainly a good choice.
To go to the Department of Public Memory website, click here.
Perram House is an excellent example of why professionals prefer not to work in the community sector. To read more click here.