At a point you’d think somebody would stop and ask a few questions.
Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father’s memory.
Last week we reported on how Kingston’s Providence Care cut down the trees and removed the plaques associated with a 25-year-old memorial garden to former staff who had passed away. The removal of the memorial garden was in preparation for a new building to replace the aging mental health and rehab hospitals in the city.
This week Providence Care expressed regret that this had taken place without prior warning or communications to staff and community. They also committed to planning a rededication – that is once they figure out who had once been memorialized there.
Providence Care admits that while an inventory of the trees had taken place, there were “very few existing written records of the memorials and dedications that existed throughout the site.”
In other words, they don’t know.
The Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn is certainly raising a storm over the rewards the province’s 14 Community Care Access Centres have been bestowing on their CEOs during a period of intense provincial austerity. The Auditor General of Ontario is now looking into the operations of the CCACs, although a full report is not expected until 2015.
When Hepburn first raised this issue the Sunshine list for 2013 earnings had not been posted. The big winner between 2009-2012 was the Central LHIN’s Cathy Szabo, who had seen her compensation bumped up by about 50 per cent from 2009. Apparently that was not enough. Today Hepburn reports that in 2013 Szabo had seen her salary bumped up again – from $271,734 to $277,609 – an increase of $5,875 or 2.1 per cent. Over five years she has seen an increase of $97,604 – or almost enough to make the sunshine list all by itself.
Szabo may be relieved to be in Kingston, having been recently announced as the new CEO of Providence Care. There is no word on what her salary will be, but her predecessor Dale Kenney took home $336,779 plus another $22,197 in taxable benefits in 2013. If she makes anywhere near that amount, Szabo will have seen her compensation nearly double since 2009. Restraint, what restraint? Cathy — we’ll see you at the bargaining table.
Who decided Victoria Day would be a good time to celebrate PSWs?
We’d love to know how PSW (Personal Support Worker) Day is decided? In 2012 it was on May 16 – the Wednesday before the long weekend. Last year it was inexplicably changed to the Sunday of the long weekend – May 19. This year it is once again being celebrated on May 19 – which falls squarely on Victoria Day. While PSWs do work 24/7, many would still normally have the holiday off. That means in workplaces PSW Day will be celebrated without many of the regular PSWs present. However or whoever decides this should rethink the timing – not all professional days are necessarily celebrated on the same calendar day each year. The event could, for example, be celebrated on the Thursday before the long weekend annually or placed at a totally different date that doesn’t run into the distraction of a long weekend. Other professions do operate this way – perhaps the Ontario Personal Support Worker Association should give this more thought.
Media wrong about Romanow Commission’s view of Pharmacare
We were recently fortunate to be at a meeting with Steve Morgan, the BC Academic who was responsible for writing the Pharmacare section of the Romanow Commission into the Future of Health Care in Canada. While the media regularly suggests that the Romanow report abandoned the goal of universal Pharmacare to pursue catastrophic coverage instead, Morgan insists that catastrophic coverage was meant as a step towards universal Pharmacare, not a replacement. Universal Pharmacare has been a goal even before the inception of Medicare in Canada. It was part of Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas’ plan for phase two of Medicare. It was also recommended by Justice Emmett Hall in his 1964 review of public health insurance in Canada. Every developed country with a universal Medicare plan has some form of universal Pharmacare coverage – except for Canada.
Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father’s memory.
“It felt like digging up his grave,” said Terry Haffner.
A housekeeper at Kingston’s Providence Care, Haffner was disturbed to find a memorial garden to long-serving staff had been cut down and the plaques removed by the hospital without any notice to the families of the deceased or the union who had represented them.
One of those deceased staff members was Terry’s dad Neil, who had worked at the former Kingston Psychiatric hospital from 1961 to his retirement in 1993. Neil passed away in 1996.
When Neil’s tree was planted, his son kept it watered and tended in the early days until it grew hardy enough to withstand the extremes in weather so close to the lake.
It was Terry’s father who told him to apply for a job at the mental health centre in the 1980s. His dad recognized that the heavy construction work his son was doing at the time would be difficult to maintain as he got older. For many years they travelled to work together.
Something is definitely off this holiday season. Instead of being invited to the usual round of parties, we’re getting invitations to demonstrations and press conferences. Instead of decking the halls we’re decorating placards.
How oblivious Health Minister Deb Matthews is to this growing unrest is hard to tell, although the recent revelation that she never read the ORNGE audit suggests a shocking disengagement that likely extends well beyond that scandal.
Today in Arnprior staff at the local hospital will be marching to protest ongoing shrinking services. A few more physiotherapy hours to be lost in January, some x-ray… this is the hospital that decided to totally do away with personal care workers (PSWs) as it sheds staff to balance its frozen budget. This slow striptease of staff has a way to go if the government thinks it can continue on this road to at least 2018.
Today is also the day that VON PSWs in Grey-Bruce Counties go back to the bargaining table in a last attempt to avoid job action. One of the workers pointed out that a staffing agency is advertising on Kijiji for temporary PSWs. Is the VON or Red Cross Care Partners – also in a strike countdown – contemplating hiring strike breakers, or are the more affluent residents of this community seeking some interim help should all hell break loose? The classified ad says the employment agency is willing to negotiate wages, something that so far their real employers don’t seem willing to do.
We went through a similar countdown last week with Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addictions Services in Kingston. They are supposed to represent this brave new world of improved community-based services that Matthews has been selling, but their agency’s base budget has been cut. In the end the workers got enough for their bargaining team to recommend a deal – it has yet to be ratified. This is one of the agencies that’s supposed to pick up the slack from 60 full-time equivalent jobs departing the local psychiatric hospital. That’s clearly not happening.
Next week we are travelling to London not for eggnog, but to talk to more mental health workers who have seen their clients similarly betrayed by this phoney health transformation.
It’s time for the Ministry of Health to look at the root causes behind the violence and injuries that are taking place in the province’s hospitals that provide mental health care.
Given persons who are mentally ill are no more statistically inclined to be violent than anyone else, clearly something is changing in these settings to push reports of violent incidents upwards.
While the union is privy to statistics around injuries experienced by its own members, we do not see the parallel data around patient-on-patient violence. Why is it one can go on-line and look at the record of critical incidents at a long-term care home but not at a psychiatric hospital?
Sadly, workers being injured in such incidents barely make the news. Some believe that getting punched, spit at or slammed against a wall is part of the job (it shouldn’t be). Hospital managers and Ministry of Labour officials have shown little sympathy for workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — surprising given where this is taking place.
Workers at these hospitals tell us repeatedly it’s just a matter of time before someone dies.
In fact, that time came this spring.
It is somewhat astonishing to see PC Randy Hillier vote against a Tory private member’s bill that would free construction giant EllisDon from a 55-year-old obligation to hire only unionized labour. This is the same Randy Hillier who, as the opposition labour critic, drafted a White Paper that advocates opening the door to any individual bargaining unit worker to opt out from paying union dues, taking advantage of the collective agreement without actually contributing to the cost of negotiating it. Recently an Indiana judge overruled such a local State law recognizing that it was unconstitutional to force an entity to provide service without compensation. Before losing his critic portfolio, Hillier complained that the Tories were introducing the bill in the hopes of enhancing party donations from the Liberal-friendly construction giant. EllisDon makes considerable financial contributions to the Tories but even bigger ones to the Liberals. Hillier wrote in an e-mail: “Our opposition will cite this example at every opportunity to demonstrate that we are only fighting unions to make big business richer.” Does he not think the rest of the PC labour platform already reflects that reality? While Hillier may appear to be supporting labour today by voting against the EllisDon bill, keep in mind that such action also brings embarrassment to PC leader Tim Hudak who may be the real reason Hillier has chosen to become a dissident on this issue. TVOntario host Steve Paiken recently blogged that such disloyal behaviour is a case of “what comes around goes around.” Paiken noted Hudak’s own disloyalty to former leader John Tory at a time when the former Rogers executive was seeking a safe by-election seat after losing his chosen constituency in a general election to Kathleen Wynne. According to Paiken, Hudak was said to be quietly urging his fellow MPPs not to give up their seat to allow Tory into the legislature. Now several of Hudak’s MPPs are encouraging a new leadership vote, the PCs having only won one of seven byelections since 2011. One of the MPPs encouraging such a review is Randy Hillier. We don’t know who left the comment on Paiken’s BLOG, but one reader duly noted that Hudak is the proverbial dog that don’t hunt. We’re not sure about the rest of the provincial PCs and their policies either.
Following Monday’s demonstration outside the former Kingston psychiatric hospital, Providence Care is now telling staff that the job cuts and bed closures are not about funding. Really? Even though the hospital is running at capacity, even though it is next to impossible to get a loved one admitted to a bed, even though long-term projections suggest greater need for mental health services in Kingston, even though the situation has become volatile with overcrowding and understaffing, the hospital expects us to believe that this is all part of the plan.
Sigh. If this is the plan, Providence Care desperately needs a new one.
On Monday we shot video of the demonstration outside the centre (below). If you live in Kingston, please share our video with others. The campaign to reverse the cuts continues. It’s time the LHIN involves the community in a plan that actually makes sense. Stay tuned for more events.
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Tagged Brendan Kilcline, Chris Cormier, d, Dave Lundy, Kingston mental health cuts, Kingston P3 hospital, Mary Rita Holland, Providence Care, Ross Sutherland, Tracey Newton, Warren "Smokey" Thomas