Tag Archives: Natalie Mehra

Libs say budget “platform for next 30 days” after NDP vows to pull the plug

Well that was quick.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the media this morning that she cannot support the Wynne budget, or more specifically, the Wynne government.

Horwath’s remarks suggested it wasn’t so much about the content of yesterday’s budget, but about trust in the present government.

A June 12 provincial election has now been set.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli told the Ottawa Citizen this morning “this budget is our platform for the next 30 days.”

The Liberals wasted no time in going on the attack, revealing their strategy to brand PC Leader Tim Hudak as representing the values of the U.S. Tea Party and accusing Horwath of bringing “zero policy forward.”

Horwath noted that the Wynne government had not delivered on past promises, including fixing home care and establishing a Financial Accountability Office.

Yesterday OPSEU President Warren Smokey Thomas had called upon Horwath to pull the plug on the two-and-a-half year-old minority government, calling the spring budget a “wholesale transfer of wealth from the public to the corporate sector.”

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Significant risks face Ontario’s plan to shift hospital services to private clinics

Wednesday night's panel on speciality clinics -- Natalie Mehra, Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. John Lavis.

Wednesday night’s panel on speciality clinics — Natalie Mehra, Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. John Lavis.

Dr. Danielle Martin looks uncomfortable discussing the government’s recent plan to move hospital services into so-called specialty clinics.

On the one hand the VP of Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital sees patients every day who she believes could be better served in a community-based setting. On the other, this transfer of services out of hospitals to local clinics runs many risks, including what Martin acknowledges could be “an erosion of Medicare.”

Speaking Wednesday night at a forum organized by the Medical Reform Group at OPSEU’s Toronto Wellesley Membership Centre, Martin admits that in many ways “the horse is already out of the barn.”

That is not in dispute.

Ontario already has 939 independent health facilities; of which 904 provide specific diagnostic tests such as diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine tests. The remaining 35 provide surgical or therapeutic procedures such as abortions, laser dermatology, and opthamology. Almost all of these independent health facilities are run on a for-profit basis.

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Tonight: Medical Reform Group roundtable to examine controversial policy

The government’s decision to have hospitals compete with independent health facilities for the right to deliver services ranging from cataracts to colonoscopies is among the most controversial ideas to emerge recently from the Wynne government.

The Ontario Health Coalition recently completed a campaign that gathered more than 56,000 postcards expressing opposition to the plan.

Doctors in rural communities are worried that losing these services could endanger local hospitals.

Yesterday doctors in Midland said removing cataract surgeries from the Georgian Bay General Hospital and contracting it to a private clinic in Barrie or elsewhere could mean the end of opthamology services in the area.

“Removing cataract procedures from our small hospital would impact allied services,” writes Dr. Martin McNamara, the hospital’s chief of staff, in a recent public letter to the LHIN.

Doctors fear that this could be the beginning of the stripping of local services that could result in the demise of the hospital.

Is it possible to be in favour of a more robust community sector without threatening the stability and scope of services at Ontario’s hospitals? Or do community-based services have to inevitably come from Ontario’s already struggling hospital sector?

Wednesday night (April 9) the Medical Reform Group is hosting a panel discussion in Toronto on whether community-based specialty clinics can deliver better outcomes for patients, providers or the health system as a whole.

Moderated by Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, the panel includes Dr. John Lavis, Director-McMaster Health Forum; Dr. Danielle Martin, VP Medical Affairs, Women’s College Hospital; and Natalie Mehra, Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Dr. Danielle Martin.

Dr. Danielle Martin.

While a regular meeting of the Medical Reform Group, others are welcome to attend this free event. To do so, please RSVP to medicalreform@sympatico.ca or call 416-787-5246. Space is limited.

The Medical Reform Group is a voluntary organization of physicians, residents, and medical students committed to universal high quality health care for all Canadians.

The panel discussion takes place Wednesday, April 9 between 7-9 pm at OPSEU’s Wellesley Membership Centre (lower level), 31 Wellesley Street East (across from the Wellesley subway station). Please be on time — doors will lock after panel begins.

Was Monday really a tipping point?

Honking for Health Care on University Avenue in Toronto.

Honking for Health Care on University Avenue in Toronto.

On Monday I saw Ontario Health Coalition Director Natalie Mehra at a noon-hour rally on University Avenue. As far as rallies go it wasn’t a big one. About 50 people showed up to hold up signs urging motorists to honk for a new health accord. So many motorists did just that it became, at times, hard to hear each other speak.

Mobilizing people around the health accord is not the easiest sell. The health accord is a complex issue about planning, standards and funding. When you really strip it down, however, it’s really about the future of Medicare in this country.

I was recently asked by a gas station attendant about a button I was wearing with a red umbrella and the text “Canada Needs A New Health Accord.” With customers waiting behind me I had to explain in 30 seconds what it was about. That’s not so easy and made me think if I found this difficult, what about a 10-second sound bite?

March 31st we all were wondering if we just bit off more than we can chew.

Mehra has been circling the province in recent weeks working on five regional campaigns intended to pressure the government to back off on a plan to contract selected hospital services to private clinics. The campaigns are due to culminate this weekend in Windsor, London, Kitchener, Sudbury and Peterborough. Her enthusiasm has been infectious as she tells us of all the cards that have been collected to date.

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Transferring hospital services to private clinics — a line in the sand

Code Blue in Ottawa: Marlene Rivier chairs a panel including (R-L) Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), Mike McBane (Canadian Health Coalition) and Natalie Mehra (Ontario Health Coalition).

Code Blue in Ottawa: Marlene Rivier chairs a panel including (R-L) Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), Mike McBane (Canadian Health Coalition) and Natalie Mehra (Ontario Health Coalition).

OTTAWA – Natalie Mehra says The Ontario Health Coalition is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to service transfers to private endoscopy clinics from The Ottawa Hospital.

Speaking at a “Code Blue” forum in Ottawa last night, the director of the coalition said the privatization of these hospital services were “unprecedented,” part of a series of changes that had become “divorced” from planning around patient need in the Ottawa region.

Mehra raised questions about the capacity of these private clinics to absorb 4,000 endoscopies, particularly when they were likely to lengthen wait lists.

Given endoscopies are going to be individually funded by the Local Health Integration Networks this year, funding normally allocated to the hospital for these procedures cannot flow from the LHIN to the private clinics given such clinics are outside the scope of the LHIN.

The transfer of endoscopies to private for-profit clinics also is in direct contradiction of the Ontario Health Minister’s commitment to transfer services to not-for-profit providers in the community.

Mehra also debunked the myth that the cuts to hospital services were merely part of a new reorganization of health care, noting the lack of funding support from Queen’s Park to home care over the last decade. Even with the recent funding increases, per patient funding is lower today than it was before the McGuinty Liberals took power in 2003.

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Kingston P3: John Gerretsen should know better

Carleton University's Hugh Armstrong speaks about P3s in Kingston March 4.

Carleton University’s Hugh Armstrong speaks about P3s in Kingston March 4.

KINGSTON – As a Minister of the Crown, Kingston MPP John Gerretsen should know better.

At yesterday’s anti-privatization rally in front of his Kingston constituency office, Gerretsen was steadfast in his assertion that the deficit rendered the government unable to build new hospitals without private involvement in the finance, design, construction and long-term maintenance of the building.

The protesters are upset by the government’s plans to use a public-private partnership (P3) deal to build a new hospital in Kingston. The new facility will replace the aging psychiatric and rehab hospitals.

At the same time, Gerretsen surprised the protesters by telling them he knew the P3 option was more expensive.

The suggestion is that somehow using the private sector takes the costs of doing these projects off the government accounts. This is completely untrue.

It’s a little like taking out your high interest VISA card as a solution to your debts.

You don’t have to take our word for it.

The Conference Board of Canada issued a report in 2010 funded largely by pro-P3 groups such as the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, PPP Canada and Partnerships BC. To say the report subsequently contains a pro-P3 bias is a massive understatement.

Despite this, the report acknowledges that the idea of taking these financial obligations off-book has no value.

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Are health services really shifting, or is the health minister being shifty?

OPSEU's Rick Janson joins OHC Director Natalie Mehra for the release of the coalition's "Austerity Index."

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?

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