This winter we noted the constantly shifting terminology around cuts to clinical services at The Ottawa Hospital. At first the public was told by the Health Minister and Premier that cuts to thousands of endoscopies at The Ottawa Hospital were part of health care restructuring. We asked why it was therefore not being treated as an integration decision by the Champlain Local Health Integration Network? The LHIN replied that because the “cuts” (not restructuring) were actions taken as part of the hospital’s accountability agreement, no integration decision was required. For the public, no integration decision means no consultation and no transparency. Despite multiple protests around the cuts and profile given to the issue during the Ottawa South by-election (in which the Tories oddly said jobs were being cut at the hospital because of too much spending on health care) the Champlain LHIN refused to consider intervening. Given its lack of interest in a massive transfer of diagnostic services in the Ottawa area, it is remarkable to note what the LHIN is now deciding upon: parking. While the Ottawa hospital could cut clinical services at will, it sought the approval of the LHIN to build a new $12.5 million parking garage that will be paid for over four years by drivers shelling out $13 a day. Evidently parking is important to health planners. Endoscopies? Not so much.
Last week we noted that Hamilton Health Sciences was caught off guard by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request issued by the Hamilton Spectator. The newspaper had requested executive and board expenses going back to 2007 at the hospital. HHS initially told the newspaper that it would pass on costs of more than $17,000 to retrieve thousands of invoices from an off-site storage facility. The hospital also said it would take staff until the end of the year to sift through the invoices to fulfill the request. Upon appeal, the hospital has now agreed to supply the information by the end of September and fees have been reduced by the adjudicator to $1,228. The fact that a hospital with an annual budget of $1.2 billion could not access these records electronically was astonishing to us, although CEO Murray Martin told the newspaper that in the past year they have implemented a fully electronic financial software system. When Diablogue used the same FOI process last year to track staff-management changes at 20 Ontario hospitals, many claimed to have to resort to manual processes to fulfill our request. It cost us more than $1600 to get the answers demonstrating the freedom of information is far from free.