There is little question that a provincial freeze in base hospital operating funding is motivating the present shedding of staff positions and services across the province.
Hospitals are required to balance their budgets by law, but Local Health Integration Networks regularly extend exemptions conditional on the hospital following an improvement plan worked out between the LHIN and the hospital.
Hospital CEOs and LHIN officials are usually reluctant to admit that significant budget cuts will impact service delivery, even if the impact is obvious in examples where hundreds of staff positions are lost (ie. Peterborough Regional). That’s because significant changes in service delivery should be treated as an integration decision, a 60-day process that puts on the onus on the service provider(s) to make a case for change in delivery to the LHIN. That case usually includes evidence of community consultation.
With the latest round of hospital cuts the Health Minister and Premier are suggesting what is taking place is not belt tightening, but restructuring.
If that is the case, then why not have the LHINs treat these changes as integration decisions where all the facts are put on the table and the community is consulted?
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone in Ottawa.
When the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario finally released the list of private clinics that failed their inspection, it included one Ottawa endoscopy clinic that was already the subject of a rare public warning in 2011. The 2011 warning suggested that patients of the private endoscopy clinic may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C as a result of equipment that may not have been properly sterilized.
After nearly 7,000 patients were asked to get tested, five were found to have contracted either hepatitis B or C. The five are part of a larger class action against the clinic, although connecting their disease to unsanitary equipment may be difficult to prove.
Given everyone knew the list of clinics that failed inspection would soon be made public, it is curious that Dr. Jack Kitts, CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, should suggest during the same week that he intended to divest 5,000 endoscopies a year from the hospital to private clinics. Perhaps unfairly, the question must have been none-the-less on everyone’s mind: divest to clinics like this?
An endoscope is a diagnostic procedure that inserts a camera inside the body with a flexible tube to look at internal organs.
This week’s disclosure by the College gives us a view of the clinic that goes well beyond the issue of improper sterilization.