HNHB LHIN named least transparent even after Ombuds 2010 report

The least transparent of the Local Health Integration Networks is the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN according to the Welland Tribune.

The same LHIN was the subject of considerable wrath by the Ontario Ombudsman in 2010, calling claims to transparency “LHIN spin.”

This is the same LHIN where board members considered personal conversations in the grocery store line or on the golf course to constitute “community engagement.”

The Tribune reports that local resident Pat Schofield (also a frequent commenter on this site) is still waiting for access to a report issued to the LHIN board in February 2011. Concerned over the future of the Niagara Health System, Schofield reasonably requested a report issued to the HNHB LHIN board on the impact of hospital bed closures on acute alternate level of care patients.

Similarly the newspaper itself is still waiting for documents it requested from the November 2013 board meeting.

Why are these documents being kept secret?

The LHIN’s CEO recently recommended that HNHB follow the lead of several other LHINs in posting documents on-line before board meetings take place. With access to these reports beforehand members of the public could actually follow the discussion taking place. Being “open” is more than just having a ringside seat as board members ask questions that become incomprehensible to the public without the documents.

HNHB Board Chair Michael Shea – identified by the Tribune as a Hamilton police superintendent – said he didn’t want the public to read the reports before the board had an opportunity to deal with them.

To us, that should be grounds for Health Minister Deb Matthews to thank Shea for his service and send him off packing back to the police department.

Clearly Shea doesn’t get it when it comes to the role of the community in formulating policy – not just reacting to it after the LHIN board has made all the decisions.

That public includes more than just the board members’ golfing buddies.

For the HNHB Board the 2010 Ombudsman’s report should have been a wake-up call. In 2014 it should be more than that.

According to the Tribune, four LHINs make documents available five to seven days in advance of the LHIN board meetings. Those LHINs are: Central, South West, South East and Erie St. Clair. The North East LHIN told us they also have a five-day requirement to post documents in advance.

Three LHINs place documents on-line the day after their board meetings: Central East, Waterloo Wellington, and Champlain.

Two make their documents available after the following month’s board meeting – a period of four weeks or more: HNHB and North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN.

There is no word on the policy for four other LHINs. We’ll let you know when we hear back.

Rules around deputations to the LHIN board are also uneven. Again Erie St. Clair is the most open, allowing an open mic session at their meetings. The Central East does make deputations possible, although the rules are so convoluted that most community members are unlikely to do so. Toronto Central requires 30 days notice for a deputation — long before most community members will even know what’s on the meeting agenda. For the majority of the LHINs, the role of the public at these meetings is limited to informal questions during breaks – assuming they can buttonhole a board or staff member.

Citizens fed up with a lack of consistent and meaningful access to LHIN documents have an opportunity to contribute to change. It may be late, but the province is finally conducting its mandated review of the Local Health Integration Networks this winter. The Standing Committee on Social Policy began with invitation-only hearings in Toronto in November and December. The committee will hit the road later this month and conduct open hearings in Fort Erie (January 27), Hamilton (January 28), Kitchener-Waterloo (January 29) Windsor (January 30), Sudbury (February 4), Thunder Bay (February 5), Champlain (near Ottawa)(February 10) and Kingston (February 11). Toronto dates may be added later. All dates are subject to change.

The review is mandated under Section 39 of the Local Health System Integration Act. The McGuinty government, true to its track record, ignored its own legislative requirement to hold the hearings after five years – or just before the last election. Evidently the government felt that more than just the gas plants weren’t suitable public fodder for an election.

More on this in the coming weeks.

If you would like to present at one of the committee hearings, please contact Valerie Quioc Lim at valerie_quioc@ontla.ola.org or call 416-325-7352. Deadline to request an oral presentation at these road hearings in this Friday — January 10 at 4 pm.

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