Category Archives: Health System

Two-tier dogma from an Ottawa hospital chief

Some days it just feels like whack-a-mole.

It’s another city, another privileged individual, and another plea for two-tier medicine.

Michel Bilodeau, described by the Ottawa Citizen as the dean of Ottawa’s hospital chiefs, says he supports the right of Canadians to buy private medical insurance to pay for health services covered under Medicare.

Bilodeau was recently enticed out of retirement from his $373,000/year job at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. He is serving as interim chief at Bruyere Continuing Care after the former CEO abruptly resigned.

Bilodeau says we have to stop considering the current system as dogma and look at what works and what doesn’t.

Continue reading

New! Province-wide forums on Ontario health cuts

While the media have portrayed health care as one of the winners of the spring budget season, the reality is the 2.1 per cent average increase in health funding over the next three years will represent major restraint on services. Last summer the Auditor General of Ontario described the previous target of 3.6 per cent as “aggressive” in his pre-election report, suggesting it would lead to a choice between hospital deficits and cuts to services.

The situation is particularly clouded for hospitals, which not only face a zero base budget, but are contending with a new funding formula that could see them receive even less than they did last year.

The Ontario Health Coalition is holding a series of town hall forums across the province in May and June to talk about the impact of the budget on the delivery of public health care.

Sara Labelle

Sara Labelle

Confirmed speakers include economist Hugh Mackenzie (Hugh Mackenzie and Associates), Dennis Howlett (Coordinator of Canadians for Tax Fairness), Trish Hennesey (Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Income Inequality Project) and Natalie Mehra (Director, Ontario Health Coalition).

Speakers from OPSEU so far include Sara Labelle (Chair, Health Care Divisional Council), Sandi Blancher (Vice-Chair, Hospital Professionals Division) and Marlene Rivier (President of Local 479, Royal Ottawa Health Group and Chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition.)

Speakers will vary by location.

Continue reading

Freedom of Information: $1637.76 to access info from 20 hospitals

Now that hospitals are subject to Freedom of Information requests, how accessible will this information really be? It all depends on the hospital and how much money you have.

It cost us $1,637.76 to find out what the ratio of staff to management was at 20 hospital corporations. That includes the $5 processing fee it takes to initiate the request.

Hospitals came under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act on January 1st of this year, although the Ontario Hospital Association sought and received additional exemption from divulging quality information under specific circumstances.

For years we have heard front line staff complain that their numbers have dwindled while the ranks of management have increased. We decided to test that question with requests to 20 randomly selected hospitals where OPSEU represents members. This includes four mental health centres – Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre, Whitby’s Ontario Shores, London’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre (Regional Mental Health), and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.

Continue reading

Austerity amid incredible wealth — Yalnizyan

Economist Armine Yalnizyan reminds us that the present call for austerity is taking place amid a period of incredible wealth.

Speaking at a Students for Medicare Conference in Toronto March 31st, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative economist said this debate is taking place amid a backdrop of growing income inequality.

“We’re standing in the middle of the industrial revolution,” she said. “Global wealth is expanding exponentially. We have more access to stuff than ever before.”

Economist Armine Yalnizyan speaking at the Students for Medicare Conference March 31.

While the rich were also affected by the economic crisis of 2008, having lost on their investments, she says they have bounced back much faster than the rest of us.

There is a growing consensus among major institutions – including the Bank of Canada — that growing inequality is a major problem.

Continue reading

Guyatt: Want sustainable health care? Go public

Why is it we celebrate the production of 10,000 SUVs or 10,000 television sets as economic growth but don’t do the same for 10,000 hip replacements?

Dr. Gordon Guyatt points out that there is likely more merit to the hip replacements than the SUVs, yet we are conditioned to think otherwise.

Dr. Gordon Guyatt

Dr. Gordon Guyatt

Public health care is not a drain on the economy, but part of the economy.

Speaking at a “Students for Medicare” conference in Toronto March 31, the McMaster University professor and recent recipient of the Order of Canada made the case that the road to sustainable health care is in publicly funded health care.

Guyatt was critical of the mainstream media who only look at the sustainability of public health care costs, ignoring total health care costs.

Continue reading

CBS announces closure of Thunder Bay plasma collection centre

Canadian Blood Services says it is producing too much blood plasma and is going to close its Thunder Bay Centre collection center, shedding 25 unionized jobs.

Represented by OPSEU, the workers received notice this afternoon, learning that CBS is closing its Thunder Bay facility April 12.

“After major job losses in both the Federal and Provincial budgets, CBS is adding to the attack on workers felt across Ontario this week,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

CBS states that new products and declining hospital demand for plasma products led to the decision.

Blood plasma is primarily used by hospitals for transfusions.

Budget 2012: McGuinty government brings even greater restraint to health care

Ontario’s 2012 budget will leave health care facing even greater restraint than recommended by the Drummond Commission on Public Service Reform.

Drummond’s recommendation to restrain health care funding to increases of 2.5 per cent per year was previously considered unworkable. Tuesday’s provincial budget limits increases in health care spending even further — to an average of 2.1 per cent over the next three years. This year it will be 2.45 per cent.

In dollars, that amounts to $1.1 billion more this year, $1 billion more in 2013-14, and $900 million more in 2014-15.

Gone will be increases in excess of $2 billion per year that were experienced in recent years.

Hospitals will be the hardest hit – their core budgets set at zero. The government has set aside 2 per cent in envelope funding for specific hospital programs, such as wait times initiatives.

Continue reading

Sunshine list excludes for-profit companies delivering public health care

Like the spring weather, the annual sunshine list came out a little early this year.

The so-called “sunshine list” includes disclosure of the compensation paid to public sector workers who earn more than $100,000 per year.

It’s an annual ritual of paddling the public sector for daring to make a reasonable living.

Nor does the sunshine list measure all the big earners who do public sector work.

That’s because increasingly this work is being delivered by the private sector.

Continue reading

Diablogue’s 500th post

Today OPSEU’s Health Care Divisional Council’s Diablogue posted its 500th story since beginning in January 2010.

The HCDC blog was intended to create a dialogue on public health care policy – and that it has done. Diablogue is now read by a diverse and informed community including  journalists, policy makers, think-tanks, academics, researchers, hospital CEOs, community organizers and OPSEU’s own 36,000 health care members. Comments are on the rise as many of these readers have contributed their own insights for discussion. Thank you!

Our readers tell us regularly that the site is both entertaining and informative.

We try hard to cut through the jargon-filled health care system to distill issues of importance to our readership community.

The 500th story – “Taxes: Let the mole people pay” —  looks at the unreality of a public that demands quality public health care but insists someone else should pay for it.

We also post on OPSEU’s Facebook site as well as tweet regularly from #opseu_diablogue. If there’s a story you particularly agree with, don’t hesitate to share it with others. Whether you agree or disagree, leave us a comment!

The Diablogue recently began a French language counterpart to extend our conversation further.

Here’s looking forward to the next 500 posts.

Ornge: What the auditor couldn’t find out

Yesterday’s special report by the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario tells us much about the web of for-profit companies established by Ornge and the failure of oversight by the Minister of Health and Long Term Care.

What’s not in the report is likely of even more interest and raises questions about the relationship with other for-profit providers in the health system.

The McGuinty government subscribes heavily to the concept of steering not rowing, but clearly with Ornge there was no steering and the rowing left much to be desired.

The auditor notes: “having an arm’s-length corporation deliver air ambulance services was … consistent with the Ministry’s long-term objective of moving away from direct service delivery, with health care services being provided by external entities accountable to the Ministry.”

Continue reading