Category Archives: Hospitals

Tory health platform review: Direct promise to scrap LHINs, CCACs missing

Diablogue Election Primer graphicCuriously after months of saying they’ll do away with both the Local Health Integration Networks and the Community Care Access Centres, both direct promises are conspicuously absent from the formal Tory election platform. That doesn’t mean they will stay in place either.

They do say they’ll instead place decision-making in the hands of “health hubs,” which will bring together “front line local experts from every aspect of health care together at the same table.” Elsewhere they define these local experts as “front-line professionals.”

“We think your nurses, doctors, community care organizations and hospitals know best what care you need,” the platform document states.

So what’s a health hub? Previously the Tories had described these not as some kind of broad-based panel of front line health professionals, but instead 30-40 large central hospitals which would run the health system within their sub-region.

The Tories may be massaging that pledge given it would strike at the independence of mostly local rural hospitals — which is where much of their electoral base resides. The first round of hospital consolidation under the Harris government created a lot of friction as smaller community hospitals found many of their services consolidated in larger urban sites. If the “health hubs” idea is to be implemented according to their earlier “white paper” it may be a vote loser in many smaller communities across the province. Nobody wants to see their hospital services taken away.

The platform is remarkably vague on how these “health hubs” would now be constituted. Watch for a possible name change, some new signs and a coat of paint applied to the Local Health Integration Networks.

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The best of Diablogue in 2012

It’s time for us to take our seasonal break and wish the best of the season to all our readers and posters. Next year will be challenging for health care activists as hospitals continue to shed services to balance their budgets, home care faces unrealistic and high expectations over relatively modest funding increases, bed shortages compound wait times in long-term care and all health providers try to find ways to better work together.

If you are new to our BLOG, or are an occasional viewer, you may have missed some of our postings throughout this year.

Here is a sampling of some of our more popular stories from 2012:

1. In recent days we have been unpacking the contents of the Auditor General’s chapter on long-term care in his 2012 annual report. Much of Ontario’s bed shortage problem is based on the Health Minister’s insistence on holding the line on opening new beds, noting Denmark’s success in diversifying long-term care options. But Denmark still has more nursing home beds per capita than Ontario and has made massive investments in home care. To read more, click here.

2.  When the province introduced its new Long Term Care Act, it was to include stepped up inspection. Problem is, they never hired enough long-term care inspectors to get the job done. Most Ontario nursing homes have not had a thorough inspection since 2009, and some may never see a detailed inspection. To read more, click here.

3. Norma Gunn won a disability rights award this year from the Ontario Federation of Labour for telling her own story about being assaulted at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and coping with the subsequent post traumatic stress disorder. A psychiatric nurse at the Whitby-based hospital, Gunn has been at the center of a struggle to reduce incidents of violence at the hospital. In recent days we’ve learned that CEO Glenna Raymond is stepping down in April. Will it be an opportunity for the hospital to press its own reset button on this issue and repair its relations with the staff who work there? To read more, click here.

4. This spring we were in Thunder Bay for a rally around the closure of the Canadian Blood Services plasma donor clinic.  Canadian Blood Services was created following the tainted blood scandal of the late 1980s and the subsequent inquiry by Justice Horace Krever. As we probed the decision by CBS to close down the Thunder Bay donation centre, we began to wonder if all the lessons from the inquiry were truly learned. To read more, click here.

5. One of our most popular stories this year was a posting about corporations stashing away record amounts of “dead” cash and the rich squirreling away billions in tax havens while insisting on further tax cuts. The impact is juxtaposed against a backdrop of hospital cuts across Ontario as the province claims it is broke. To read more, click here.

 6. This was the year that P3s (Public Private Partnerships) came back into the news. This summer we were reminded of how bad the situation is in Britain, the birthplace of these schemes. These so-called PFIs — Private Finance Initiatives — are saddling generations of Britons with a mountain of debt. Worse still, the actual value of these projects is about half the size of the accumulated debt, raising questions about value. Ontario represents more than half of such P3 projects taking place in Canada. To read more about the British experience, click here.

7. Ontario is the only province where the ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over the health sector. In BC the ombudsman has made significant contributions to staffing issues in that province’s long-term care homes. Why not here in Ontario? Click here.

8. What would Diablogue be without its bad hospital food stories? Truly if there is one issue that galvanises everyone — including hospital administrators concerned about patient satisfaction scores — it’s bad hospital food. Now the evidence would suggest it’s about more than just tasteless taters and mountains of wobbly Jello. Click here for more.

9. It’s a catch-22. We criticize much that takes place within our public health system. Then we defend the hell out of it when someone suggests we should replace it. This post reminds us of what it is we are fighting for. Click here.

10. Another of our more popular posts this year was the analysis of how former bank executive Don Drummond has skewed his economic projections to make it look like Ontario was in an even worse crisis than actually existed. To what end? Click here.

See you all back in January!

Who is that guy?

Hey – who is that guy on the Diablogue flag?

His name is Harjinder Sangha, more familiarly known to us as Harry. He works as a OR Assistant at Mackenzie Health (formerly York Central Hospital). Sangha is also on the executive of OPSEU’s Hospital Support Division.

While politicians often think of the health system as being populated by doctors and nurses, the reality is it takes hundreds of professions to keep the system running.

Our plan is to feature a new face on the flag about once a month to draw your attention to these often overlooked professions that are vital to your care experience.

To see more of Harry and better understand his role in the hospital, check out the video below:

Thunder Bay lags behind other hospitals in fulfilling freedom of information request

Evidently some hospitals have kinks to work out in their processing of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

In mid-February we sent out requests – along with an initial $5 fee – to 20 hospitals to look at how the ratio of front line workers to managers has changed over the last five years.

Three months later we still don’t have all the information despite FOI rules that set a 30-day time limit for responding unless the information holder sends an extension letter.

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8,000 rally in Grimsby, but new mega-hospital instead proposed to replace four Niagara sites

In Grimsby they must be shaking their heads. They may not be the only ones.

On Wednesday 8,000 residents came out in the rain to try to save the $138 million project to build a new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. The hospital was among six projects that were either cut or scaled back in the spring budget.

The day after the massive community rally, Kevin Smith, the province’s appointed supervisor for the Niagara Health System, says the province should close four South Niagara hospitals and replace them with a single regional facility. He is also proposing to close the hospital at Niagara-on-the-Lake, taking the NHS down to just two hospital sites and a stand-alone urgent care centre. The proposed new hospital would replace facilities in Welland, Niagara Falls, Port Colborne and Fort Erie.

This is on top of the new $759 million privatized facility intended to consolidate NHS services in St. Catharines. The P3 hospital is expected to open in 2013.

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Queen’s Park: Buildings matter. Health care delivery? Not so much.

The next election appears to be set up to be fought over the bricks and mortars of health care, and not the quality of the system itself.

Liberals are using robocalls in Halton to urge constituents to call their MPP and urge her to vote for the provincial budget lest the $300 million redevelopment of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital be placed in jeopardy.

The Liberals felt no compulsion about doing the same around Grimsby’s West Lincoln Memorial hospital redevelopment or five other projects that were taken off the table in the same provincial budget. Five of six of these projects are in provincial Tory ridings.

“Their decisions are not about health care. Their decisions about what hospitals to fund have become part of a political game,” PC leader Tim Hudak told the Hamilton Spectator.

According to the Spectator, Burlington MPP Jane McKenna received more than 1,000 calls to her office as a result of robocalling that started Monday.

While hospitals are telling us about impending layoffs due to a base budget freeze, at Queen’s Park the real battle is over the buildings, not the care delivered in those buildings.

Hospitals: I am a dinosaur. Hear me roar.

This is what we’re all expected to believe: if you cut the funding from hospitals and give it to community-based care, our health system will become more effective and sustainable.

The people who say hospitals should be nothing but acute care centers appear to be winning the debate on health care reform despite a lack of evidence to support their views. Those of us who suggest otherwise are quickly labelled dinosaurs.

Even the warm and friendly Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives appears to be getting in on the act, suggesting in their federal alternative budget that as long as the community services remain not-for-profit, all will be well. They recommend an increasing share of federal transfers should be used to enhance primary and community-based care, not to support hospitals.

When we think about expensive hospitals, we think about beds.

And yet, the CCPA acknowledges that Canada already has the highest rate of day surgery in the world – an average of 87 per cent of all surgeries.

They point out that hospitals have only increased slightly as a percentage of spending relative to the size of the economy, from 3 per cent in the 1970s to 3.4 per cent in 2009. That’s more than 30 years.

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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.

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Hospital infections: The common nonsense of Astroturfers

It’s generally good heart health NOT to read the on-line comments following major stories in the commercial media.

There is a concept called “astro-turfing” in which individuals are paid to troll through major media and leave specific comments behind. Each day they are given key points to make by their employers. The impression is that these comments reflect the “grass roots,” when in fact it is all calculated, planned, and presumably well-funded. Hence, the reference to astroturf, or an artificial “grass roots.”

This is not to say that every stupid comment reflects that of a paid astroturfer, but, well, it’s rather obvious at times.

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36 hospitals will be losers in new funding formula – significant layoffs likely

This week Health Minister Deb Matthews told the media that 36 hospitals will have their budgets cut by as much as three per cent as the new hospital funding formula rolls out.

The statement leaves many questions, including which hospitals are going to lose revenue as the government shifts to a blended funding model. The Health Minister gives no clue as to what the base funding will look like – for that we have to wait for the March 27 provincial budget. The South East LHIN has told its hospitals to expect no increase in base funding, while some hospitals elsewhere in the province say they are planning for a one per cent base increase.

The Drummond Commission on Public Service Reform recommends a 2.5 per cent increase in health care funding over each of the next four years, but most of that is intended to go to community-based care, not hospitals. Over the summer the Ontario Auditor General warned that a 3.6 per cent increase in overall health care funding would likely put hospitals back into deficit or require significant cuts to services.

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