Where’s Linda Knight now?

OPSEU Information picket outside the Niagara CCAC offices March 19th.

OPSEU Information picket outside the Niagara CCAC offices March 19th.

When the unhappy staff at the Niagara branch of CarePartners first entertained the idea of organizing themselves into a union, CarePartners owner Linda Knight picked up the phone and called each of the workers. She promised that things would get better if only the front line home care workers gave her another chance before joining a union.

Nobody knows any of the financial details of Knight’s business – the for-profit CarePartners is not publicly traded and is therefore not required to report the details of its operations. Nor are for-profit companies working with public money required to post on the Sunshine list. We do know that in 2003 Profit magazine ranked Knight 33rd among the top 100 women business owners based on the firm’s gross revenues. Media reports suggest CarePartners had more than 500 nurses on the payroll – a huge leap forward from the kitchen-table nursing operation Knight started in 1984.

The fact that a prominent CEO and business owner would call about 100 workers pleading with them not to organize was extraordinary.

The gambit worked at the time, and the workers gave her another chance to make things better.

Knight never honoured that pledge.

Fool me once, but not twice.

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ONA Strike: Home Care critical to Ontario’s health care strategy – just tell that to the CCACs

Picture of OPSEU President Warren Smokey Thomas with striking ONA CCAC professionals in Kingston on Friday January 30.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas (far right) with striking ONA CCAC professionals in Kingston last Friday.

About 3,000 professional staff at nine of the 14 Ontario Community Care Access Centres started walking a picket line Friday.

Represented by the Ontario Nurses’ Association, it’s the latest labour disruption in a sector the government considers to be critical to its overall health strategy.

About 140 OPSEU home care workers at ParaMed Home Health Care in Renfrew withheld their services last September after their agency initially failed to negotiate a deal that would lift many of its workers out of poverty. In 2013 SEIU took 4,500 personal support workers at Red Cross Care Partners out on strike over similar conditions. Following that strike the government implemented a well-intentioned but poorly constructed initiative to stabilize the Personal Support Worker (PSW) workforce by increasing funding for their wages over three years. As the government passed on wage increases for these PSWs, some private for-profit home care agencies clawed back compensation for travel time and mileage. In Niagara and Norfolk Counties OPSEU’s nursing staff at CarePartners are likely to strike soon to gain a first contract.

Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins has appointed former RNAO President Gail Donner to lead an expert review on the sector. Her recommendations are expected early this year. They can’t come soon enough.

The pressures during this latest strike will be tremendous given Ontario’s underfunded hospitals have little room to maneuver now that the ability to discharge home care patients to the CCAC has become much more limited.

The CCAC boards are looking particularly ridiculous. The Toronto Star reports that ONA was asking for a 1.4 per cent hike for its workers after emerging from a two-year wage freeze. To most people, that seems more than reasonable in the face of the lavish wage increases the CCAC boards have been bestowing on their CEOs.

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Deep River faces Ontario’s plan for laboratory testing: pay more, get less

Photograph of medical laboratory staff at London Health Sciences.

OPSEU Medical laboratory staff at London Health Sciences. Ontario hospitals are closing their doors to outpatient testing due to funding prohibitions, yet outpatient testing could save money and make labs more efficient.

One of the last hospitals in Ontario to provide local outpatient medical laboratory testing is transferring the service to the private for-profit Lifelabs Medical Laboratory Services.

The move will save the Deep River and District Hospital money, but cost the province more and lengthen the wait for results. Its Ontario’s pay more and get less plan.

Patients will still come to the hospital to get their blood drawn and other specimens collected, but the testing will not stay in the Deep River community unless the referring doctor or nurse practitioner marks it urgent (STAT). All existing inpatient testing will remain at the hospital’s lab, which is part of the amalgamated Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA).

Coincidentally the move comes as the hospital is expanding to consolidate physician offices on site. As the physicians come closer into the central health hub for the community, the lab testing will be conducted further from Deep River.

EORLA and Deep River and District Hospital will still have to maintain staff and laboratory facilities that could easily handle these newly outsourced and privatized tests. Deep River must have staff present 24/7 to provide inpatient and emergency testing. Instead of turning around tests “super fast” at the hospital, professional laboratory technologists, technicians and phlebotomists will have much less to do. About 70 per cent of the hospital’s present lab work is conducted for outpatients.

Each outpatient test performed by Lifelabs is paid for publicly by OHIP. While the hospitals could perform these tests for much less using surplus capacity, they are prohibited from similarly billing OHIP. Instead they are expected to provide this service out of an annual budget that has been shrinking in relation to its overall costs.

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Hospital Cuts: Barrett could be hero or goat depending on the future of Chesley’s Restorative Care Unit

There was standing room only in Elmwood last Friday as residents rallied to save the Restorative Care Unit at the Chesley hospital.

There was standing room only in Elmwood last Friday as residents rallied to save the Restorative Care Unit at the Chesley hospital.

Michael Barrett has a problem.

The CEO of the South West Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) now has the ball in his court as local support has been building to save the restorative care unit at the Chesley Hospital, one of four small sites that make up the South Grey Bruce Health Centre (SGBHC).

Barrett’s LHIN initially funded the 10-bed unit on a trial basis three years ago. The problem is the LHIN had no plan in place should the trial turn out to be a runaway success. There was no funding for year two or beyond. That would be the hospital’s problem.

This may not be as odd as it sounds. The LHINs frequently incubate new projects through one-time funding. Some don’t pan out. Others do. In normal circumstances, new money is often found to keep the successful high-performing programs going, but these are far from normal times.

The restorative care unit at Chesley was successful and everybody knew it. When the hospital announced it didn’t have $800,000 to keep the program running past the end of April, the community quickly rallied. The media were filled with testimonies of how the lives of patients were turned around with a few weeks of restorative care at the hospital.

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Action: Lives of four busloads of Canadian youth at stake in Federal budget

Jeff Moat, CEO of Partners for Mental Health, at OPSEU Tuesday.

Jeff Moat, CEO of Partners for Mental Health, at OPSEU Tuesday.

The change in fortune for the federal government is making Jeff Moat very nervous.

The CEO of Partners for Mental Health, Moat has been lobbying federal MPs to support a five-year $100 million project to pilot a youth suicide prevention program that has already shown impressive results in Europe. In Canada three times as many youth (15-24) die from suicide than by all forms of cancer.

Moat says MPs have been very receptive to the proposal, but a drop in government revenues from falling oil prices likely means the Partners will have to demonstrate significant public support to keep it in this year’s budget.

Normally delivered in February, Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver recently announced he was pushing the budget back to April or later to deal with the current economic instability brought on by falling energy prices. That has prompted fears that the Harper government is taking a chainsaw to the supports Canadians need in order to keep the Prime Minister’s promise of a balanced budget.

The proposal the Partners have brought to the federal government is based on one piloted by the Nuremburg Alliance in Germany that reduced youth suicide by a staggering 24 per cent. That initiative takes a whole community approach to suicide prevention, giving everyone a role from mental health and child welfare professionals to police, teachers and the media.

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Heading for the courts, CAMH’s Zahn can’t sweep workplace safety under the rug

Photograph of person sweeping two post-it notes under a rug. One says Workplace, the other violence.

It’s time CAMH CEO Katherine Zahn addressed the issue of workplace violence rather than sweep it under the rug. Photo: http://www.canstock.com

You have to wonder about Katherine Zahn.

Not much has been going right lately for the CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Data shows incidents of workplace violence are dramatically up. The workforce is upset about threats to their personal safety and injuries are starting to become routine fodder for joint press releases between OPSEU and the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA). The Ministry of Labour has recently charged the hospital with violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OH&SA) — the second time in five years. The unions representing the injured workers are clamouring for an urgent meeting. And to put the cherry on the top, the Toronto Star is presently on a campaign to tighten the rules around privacy violations, using CAMH as an example where 22 patient records were inappropriately accessed.

So what do you do if you are Zahn?

Instead of agreeing to meet with the unions, Zahn sent out an e-mail to all staff defending a record of workplace safety that is clearly failing and telling everyone how “disappointed” she is by “inflammatory language” of the union’s press releases. She tries to divide the unions from their membership by suggesting they are “diminishing the excellent work that is being done by their local members.”

There were 118 incidents that resulted in harm last year at CAMH and Zahn wants to talk about language in a press release.

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Royal Ottawa and CAMH face new prosecutions for unsafe workplaces

Photograph of the exterior of the Royal Ottawa Centre for Mental Health.

Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

It’s not every day that a major Ontario psychiatric hospital is placed on trial, much less two.

Health care workers across the province will be closely watching the outcome of an ongoing trial following charges against the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Royal unsuccessfully sought a stay of proceedings, arguing that testimony could be tainted by recent media coverage. The Ottawa Citizen reports that Justice of the Peace John Doran rejected the hospital’s arguments, noting that witness statements obtained before the trial would serve as a “baseline” of evidence.

As the trial got underway in December new charges were laid against the Royal Ottawa following an alleged stabbing of a nurse by a patient in October at the hospital’s Brockville site. The stabbing narrowly missed her carotid artery.

Following the attack, the Ontario Nurses’ Association applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for an Interim Order to place trained security guards on the unit where the alleged assault took place. ONA represents registered nurses at the Royal. The OLRB responded November 26 issuing an order to provide 24/7 security on the unit – an order the hospital has yet to comply with.

Representing two bargaining units at the Royal Ottawa’s Brockville site, OPSEU is seeking intervener status on this new case despite opposition from the hospital’s legal counsel.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was also charged under the same Act in December — about a week after OPSEU and ONA issued a joint press release calling for action following an alleged January 2014 assault that left a registered practical nurse beaten beyond recognition. Both the OPSEU RPN and the ONA nurse who came to her assistance have been off work since the incident.

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