CEO Peterkin leaves, many questions left unresolved

Bruce Peterkin has left the building. The MICs Group of Health Services has told the media that the controversial CEO of three northern Ontario hospitals no longer holds his position. When the Timmins Daily Press recently called Peterkin, they report he declined comment and abruptly hung up.

There is now talk that the healing process has begun following a lengthy struggle between members of the community and leadership at the hospital.

While Peterkin may have been a lightning rod for the wrath of many, it doesn’t mean all issues are resolved.

Last month a letter was sent to Health Minister Deb Matthews by the Ontario and Northeastern Health Coalitions taking issue with several details of a scathing investigator’s report that sparked the appointment of Hal Fjeldsted as the Ministry-appointed supervisor for the Anson General in Iroquois Falls. Fjelsted is now serving as interim CEO of all three MICs hospitals, including Matheson and Cochrane, upon the invitation of those two other boards.

Peterkin’s departure still leaves open questions around local governance and the proposed formal amalgamation of the three hospitals.

While the three hospitals share many services, including a single CEO, they still each maintain their own local hospital board. Formal amalgamation would change that.

Two of the three hospital boards have endorsed such a move, although the Anson General first split on the decision, then later voted against it. Now Fjelsted has the authority of the dissolved Anson Board and could theoretically spell the end for local governance using the votes of the other two hospitals as justification.

That would be a bad move at a time when the hospital is trying to regain the trust of the Iroquois Falls community.

The community is still concerned that by-laws of the hospital have been changed to effectively disenfranchise the community from any meaningful participation in the governance of the Anson General.

That is not uncommon following the appointment of a provincial supervisor. If there are two common traits of such Ministry involvement, they are a quick departure of the CEO and removal of meaningful participation of the community in the governance process.

The Coalitions feel that the investigator erred in describing community hospital board meetings as “non-valued added.” The report attached to the letter states “the Investigator expects amalgamation to rid the hospital management team of the pesky requirement for community input, accountability and democracy without explaining what compelling public interest reason supports such a move in a hospital that has already achieved efficiencies from the establishment of formal partnerships and joint senior management between the three MICs sites.”

During the height of the hospital battles, the Anson General disallowed the applications of more than 400 local residents for hospital memberships. Two members of the board, including a former mayor, were also removed. Even the local MPP was denied access to the hospital’s annual general meeting. The battles gained broader attention when the hospital launched a so-called SLAPP lawsuit against nine community activists over comments expressed in social media. SLAPP is defined as the strategic litigation against public participation. That lawsuit was later dropped.

Peterkin did himself no favours in his overly detailed and inappropriate public responses to community concerns, using the local media to accuse members of the public of racism and hurtling accusations of bullying by former staff members.

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