Dr. Eric Hoskin, Ontario’s Health Minister, speaks about his top four priorities at HealthAchieve November 5.
Dr. Eric Hoskins may be signing his name, but the latest Toronto Star letter-to-the-editor from the Health Minister sounds as tired and exasperated as those served up by his predecessor. Given Ministers seldom pen their own letters, we conclude it must be hard to get good help these days.
Hoskins (or his ghost writer) insists that Star columnist Bob Hepburn is wrong – that in fact no cuts are taking place in home care. Never mind Erie St. Clair CCAC’s new executive director sent out a memo announcing a 33 per cent cut in daily nursing visits or that Care Coordinators at the Champlain CCAC are beside themselves having to recommend out-of-pocket paid alternatives to long-term patients who suddenly find themselves without a caregiver. Both CCACs are staring down millions in debt and are in freefall. But hey, aren’t we glad that no cuts are taking place?
It’s the same old song and dance coming out of the Minister’s office. Hoskins insists that Windsor got $3 million more in funding this year and that overall $270 million has been added for home care. Demand is far outstripping this funding due to a planned multi-year freeze to the base budget of Ontario’s public hospitals. Care Coordinators are telling us that not only is this placing the CCACs under great pressure, but it is changing the very nature of the work they are doing. It’s all about post-hospital care, not about longer-term chronic care management and support.
The Champlain CCAC continues to lurch from crisis to crisis. Is it time for the province to intervene — again?
“It’s a question of how we can do work more efficiently and maybe less people.” – Patrice Connolly, vice-president of people and stakeholder engagement, Champlain CCAC.
The Ottawa Sun is reporting the Champlain CCAC has cut services to a patient who has multiple sclerosis and cannot bathe, dress, or cook. Without his visits he cannot also do the exercises needed to keep him from stiffening up.
Over the summer Champlain realized that it was headed for a $6.8 million operating deficit and reset the threshold for personal support services to an assessment score (RAI) of 15.5 – this on a scale that goes to 28.
Further, staff have been told to instruct patients in need of care how to access other services, “many of which have a co-pay fee.”
States the Champlain CCAC in their June minutes: “staff recognize this is a hardship for clients and families, however the Champlain CCAC must also work within the budget it is provided.”
Sign on the door Tuesday at of one of ParaMed’s Renfrew County offices.
Renfrew County doesn’t usually generate a lot of headlines.
In a very conservative part of the province the plight of a 110 striking home care workers is generating some sympathy as they take on a corporate behemoth. It’s a David versus Goliath story that pits the millionaire Extendicare CEO against the $12.88 an hour home support worker.
The striking front line staff at ParaMed Home Health Care’s Renfrew County operations are a mere drop in the bucket in Extendicare’s universe. Extendicare, which owns ParaMed, employs about 35,000 workers in Canada and the U.S. Its international headquarters are in Markham, Ontario.
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The power a company that size is being used to grind down the small Renfrew group. It’s been 21 months since their collective agreement expired and ParaMed has shown little interest in coming to the bargaining table or shifting from its hard-line position.
Of course, for Extendicare, there is little at stake beyond the profits generated from this small corner of the province and some public relations value. This is hardly showing Extendicare in a good light, but it may be the least of their concerns. Extendicare recently announced a $42.2 million legal settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after a 2010 investigation regarding undisclosed claims in alleged violation of the U.S. Social Security Act. The company also has to undergo a five-year corporate integrity agreement, not that Extendicare admits to having done anything illegal.
Back on the streets of Renfrew County the concerns are very different.
Support came from across the region Wednesday as ParaMed’s Renfrew workers travelled to Ottawa to picket the company’s offices on Hunt Club Road. The workers will almost certainly be on strike next Tuesday.
Wednesday Renfrew County workers for ParaMed Home Health Care held a surprise picket outside the company’s Ottawa offices supported by a number of regional labour activists.
ParaMed has expressed remarkable indifference to an imminent strike that will sideline 110 nursing and home support workers in the region. Most of these workers are low-wage women.
The company has sent many mixed messages to these workers.
They say they want a deal, but refuse to offer any more bargaining dates until three days into a strike. That makes any last minute agreement to avert disruption to service impossible.
They say that in the event of a strike referrals will go to other home care agencies, but then irresponsibly tell workers that they can cross the picket line if they should choose to continue working.
They have also suggested they may shut down permanently.
OPSEU’s Rick Janson joins OHC Director Natalie Mehra for the release of the coalition’s “Austerity Index.”
We can all relax now. All those hospital cuts we’ve witnessed recently – Health Minister Deb Matthews says they are not happening.
She says these services are instead being shifted. Evidently we are all fools for not realizing that the 22 beds cut at the Chatham Kent Health Alliance just represent a transfer of services to entities like the Erie-St.Clair Community Care Access Centre, which is itself cutting $8-$10 million after the LHIN refused to allow them to run a $5.2 million deficit.
Hamilton Health Sciences says $25 million in cuts are planned and expects 140 jobs will be impacted. Perhaps Ms. Matthews can tell us where these 140 jobs are re-emerging in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN? And while she’s at it, where did the LHIN reallocate the 69 beds the Niagara Health System cut in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012? We can’t seem to find them anywhere. Neither can the hospital, which had to cancel or postpone 758 surgeries due to “bed pressures.” Maybe those beds were needed after all.
Perhaps she can tell us where the after-hours clinic, pain clinic, audiology clinic and cardiac rehabilitation program closed by Toronto’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre shifted to? We can’t find them. Can she?
Posted in Ontario Health Coalition
Tagged Champlain CCAC, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Cuts to Ontario Hospitals, Erie St. Clair CCAC, Health Minister Deb Matthews, Natalie Mehra, Niagara Health System, North Simcoe Muskoka CCAC, Ontario Health Coalition Austerity Index, Rick Janson, South East CCAC, Toronto St. Joseph's Health Care
Sharon and Jackie (not their real names) are experienced physiotherapists nearing retirement. Both do exactly the same public home care work within the region covered by the Champlain CCAC.
Sharon works in the Renfrew area. Jackie works within the City of Ottawa.
The two began their community physiotherapy work as municipal employees in 1992 and 1988 respectively.
When the CCACs were formed, the service transferred from the municipalities to the provincially-run centres. While that also meant transferring from an OMERS pension plan to a HOOP plan, the physiotherapists were told they would experience no actuarial loss. This turned out not to be true, and has been the subject of a lengthy court case about to enter its second decade.