Saturday, July 26, 2008

'There is nothing you can do' in a failing Liberal health-care monopoly

Did any one help but notice how the St. Catharines Standard’s competition in the Niagara market slammed them in a story about the NHS?
On July 25, 2008, Doug Draper of Niagara This Week wrote in his column about a Standard story (written by Matthew Van Dongen, July 19, 2008) titled “Oh baby! Health plan delivers for Garden City”. Draper wrote that this headline came across making the Standard look like a “public relations agent for the NHS since it announced its selection of the west St. Catharines site for the hospital some five years ago.
That newspaper’s panting over the possibility of the Garden City becoming “the baby capital of Niagara” notwithstanding, what the rest of us ought to remember is that this is the same NHS that, almost every time groups of doctors in our health system or others put forth a case for a more centrally located regional or “super” hospital for Niagara, responds with an out-worn line that it is committed, instead, to “community-based hospitals.””

Draper used to work at the Standard years ago as the token environment reporter. Maybe Draper’s kinda jealous of Van Dongen, seeing that he’s now the Standard’s ‘greenie’ guy, however, the Standard’s spin on this NHS plan was smugly self-satisfied, that’s certain. Spinning that St. Catharines will become the baby capital really hides the greater fact that other Niagara cities will be losing what they had before.

I agree with Draper that the NHS decision to move to the greenfields near Lincoln was an asinine move, but the Hotel Dieu property has already been sold off to developers.

Let’s recall St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley’s bellicose blusterings when he was in Opposition, like this gem about hospital restructuring from the Legislature (Sept 25, 1996):

“Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have the following petition:
"Whereas the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario promised to cut not one cent from health care; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has proceeded to cut over $1 billion of much-needed dollars from the community hospitals; and
"Whereas the broken health care promise means that St Catharines General Hospital can no longer afford to employ 20% of its workforce resulting in 220 people paying the price for the funding shortfall from the provincial government; and
"Whereas the people of St Catharines have come to rely upon the caring professional service provided by health caregivers at the general hospital, the Shaver Hospital and the Hotel Dieu Hospital and who view this betrayal by the Mike Harris government as an attack on quality health care services in the Niagara region; and
"Whereas the only area where the government has experienced any success in the field of health has been in its ability to threaten institutions and organizations who have been cut off at the knees by drastic cuts that they will be cut even further or closed should they not cooperate;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ontario government keep their election promise and restore health care spending to the level at which they promised during the last election campaign so that the general hospital and other hospitals in St Catharines are able to keep the valuable services of all of their employees."
I affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement with this petition.”

It’s such a trip to the sepia-toned land of blissful Liberalism at its most defiant, its most poignantly hypocritical, isn’t it? Let’s not forget how Bradley blustered in opposition about ‘Harris closing the Hotel Dieu’ hospital in St. Catharines – but, it was actually sold off under Bradley’s government! Did you read the part above about Bradley’s allegations about ‘threatened closures if institutions don’t cooperate’?? This is what is happening under Bradley’s own Liberal government today!! (See the St. Catharines Standard, July 26, 2008, editorial further below)

The St Catharines Standard (Oct. 28, 1998) described a holier-than-thou Bradley blustering that “it was the "height of hypocrisy" for the premier to be extolling the virtues of restructuring when community hospitals are being closed.

"We have the most elderly population in this province," he said. "On all too frequent a basis, we have a crisis in emergency care. Yet Mike Harris's destruction commission has put the boots to the religious hospitallers of St. Joseph and those who have worked for that health-care facility and its patients for 50 years."

Wow, Jim – yet now, who’s denying the Ombudsman to investigate their health monopoly? Whose pathetic treatment of “the most elderly population in this province” has become the limited focus of another Ombudsman investigation…you bet – it’s Jimmy’s Liberals!!

And doncha jus’ love Jimbo’s use of the phrase “destruction commission”?! Precious!! That's the Good Ole Jimmy we miss today - that smug, B.S. spouting, big-mouthed monopoly-pushin’ Grit hypocrite!

Today - Bradley's Liberal healthcare system is proposing ‘putting the boots’ to and destroying half of Niagara’s health care facilities – and Jimmy’s nowhere to be found!!! His boots now are made for walkin’, so that’s what Jimmy’s gone and done!

Remember how the St. Catharines Standard (May 29, 1999) reported:

“"We have to put money back into the hospitals and other aspects of health care," said Jim Bradley, the Liberal incumbent running in St. Catharines riding.
Those funds could be found in the existing government budget through measures such as cutting multimillion-dollar consultants' contracts or advertising bills, Bradley said.
And Bradley, who has found health care is the issue voters most want to talk about, has a long list of government decisions over the past four years which must be reviewed, including everything from the final report of the restructuring commission to delisting drugs some seniors can no longer afford to buy.
"I don't believe St. Catharines can easily get by with one active- treatment hospital," said Bradley, alluding to the commission's decision Hotel Dieu will become and ambulatory-care centre and not have acute-care beds. In the Garden City, only St. Catharines General Hospital will have acute-care beds.”

Put money back”, eh, Jim? But now, where’s your multi-billion-dollar Health-Tax money gone, Jim?

Long list of decisions to review’, eh, Jim? Let’s review what you and your Liberal government knew about C. Diff and the high patient mortality-rate in St. Catharines General hospital, Jim.

You ‘don’t believe St. Catharines can get by with one hospital’, eh, Jim? But that’s what you went ahead and did, Jim! One hospital in St. Catharines!! Not only did your government do that, but it looks like your Liberals are going to force the entire region of Niagara to get by on one hospital!! Pretty soon, the ONLY Niagara acute-care beds will be in St. Catharines … (until those eventually get consolidated to Hamilton …to save medicare, of course)

I’ve previously written that the new hospital’s site should have been in downtown St. Catharines, according to the Harris government’s sensible “Smart Growth” development philosophy. Yet, the NHS, under the Liberals, made the decision to move to the exurbs, and no one, provincially, federally, municipally, or regionally, did anything to convince them otherwise. Draper moaning now about changing the site is really, I believe, almost too late, short of some shocking intervention by the new Liberal Health Minister, David Caplan.

The greater problem everyone seems to forget is the perspective that all of this restructuring is occurring in a MONOPOLY system. These problems have festered and come to roost because Ontario’s bloated system has been protected and coddled from competition and accountability, by all stripes of single-tier-health-care-ideology-addicted politicians. Socialists want even more disastrous medicare, over and above the demonstrably disastrous system we have now. Yet no one wants to talk about the kind of opportunities that would come from a private-parallel system.

The problem is with the Canada Health Act and the Liberal Commitment To the Future of Medicare Act. These two legislations have ultimately conspired to enable the NHS to close facilities in order to ‘save’ medicare!

Remember Kathleen Tod (Toronto Star , Mar.17, 1997) writing “As St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley succinctly put it at a public meeting protesting recommended closing of four Niagara hospitals: “The committee appears to concede that we must cut off our leg at the knee for fear the provincial government will cut it off at the hip.”"

Ah, yes…how can we forget Smug Ole Jim Bradley’s role in the mess that is the NHS. Ten years ago, in opposition, Jim was blabbing homilies about cutting your leg off at the knee, so as the government won’t cut it off at the hip later – how clever!! Gosh darn, the Star ate that stuff up!

(Oddly, that VERY SAME quote (“As St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley succinctly put it at a public meeting protesting recommended closing of four Niagara hospitals: “The committee appears to concede that we must cut off our leg at the knee for fear the provincial government will cut it off at the hip.''”) was used again, this time by Janet Davison in a St. Catharines Standard, on May 29, 1999 – over a year later!!

Smug quotes from Jim Bradley, the Oracle of Secord Dr., are apparently timeless classics, recyclable at any time that some additional Liberal health care duplicity is in order.

Yet today, a not-very-succinct Bradley is nowhere to be found WHEN HIS OWN LIBERAL HEALTH SYSTEM is actually doing what Bradley once accused that Mike Harris would do!

Is Draper onto something when he notes that the Standard has in a way become the voice of the NHS ‘status-quo’?

A case can be made that Good Ole Jimmy has for too long been getting an overly easy ride from the local press. There have been more than enough Standard health care stories and editorials where Jim Bradley’s comments, or a scrutiny of Jim Bradley’s influence upon the situation being written about, is simply not mentioned. No mention either whether Bradley had even been contacted for a response, but didn’t respond. It’s like Bradley is being protected from scrutiny.

So when Draper talks about The Standard as being, well, NHS friendly, is that like then acknowledging that the Standard is pretty much Liberal Bradley friendly, also?

Take a look at the Standard’s editorial today July 26, 2008, and ask yourself who (as Bradley once said of Harris) is now ‘extolling the virtues of restructuring when facilities are being closed’!
You just have to wonder how happily supportive of these restructuring proposals the Standard would be if Harris was in power!! You can bet that this very same proposal, had the NHS made it during Harris’s term, would have sent Smug Ole Jimmy Bradley into a flicking fit of political and rhetorical apoplexy. Now, the Standard endorses it and the local Liberal is nowhere to be found – no quotes in the local paper, no mention of Jim Bradley in the following editorial at all:

So here is the St. Catharines Standard editorial from July 26, 2008: (my comments are in italics)

“The NHS lays a solid plan for the future.

Get past the hysteria, and what you will see is a solid plan for the future operation of Niagara's hospitals. (yes…in a monopoly system. What happens if the McCreith/Holmes constitutional charter challenge ends up unfavourably for the McGuinty Liberal government?)

The Niagara Health System's Hospital Improvement Plan is being largely panned beyond the borders of St. Catharines.

(that’s because the rest of Niagara will be losing what they thought and expected was the healthcare promised to them by the Liberals. They are being short changed with a McGuinty bait and switch health-care routine – cutting nearby facilities and forcing people to go further for shrinking services. If this happened to St. Catharines, and the new super hospital was, say in Fort Erie, the Standard surely wouldn’t be singing this tune. Conversely, maybe the super hospital should be built, say, in Smithville – that’s pretty fairly central to everyone too, isn’t it? Would the Standard gloat about that option?)

There are concerns about closing emergency rooms in Port Colborne and Fort Erie. Welland and Niagara Falls face losing their maternity wards. (and they are valid concerns: were Niagarans aware of Dalton McGuinty’s
Liberal Healthcare Duplicity, when they voted in Oct. 2007!? We were assured by the Liberals that health care was fine, there were no problems!)

But the NHS is in a tough spot. The services it currently provides cost more than the money coming in. (the Standard fails to ask whether the Liberal’s monopolist Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act has anything to do with this – since the only legal payer for medical services is the Liberal government itself, why aren’t the services properly funded??? I mean, that’s what the lefties MUST DO since they have taken away our own right to pay for our own health care!)

It has major staffing shortfalls. Emergency rooms are crowded. (so how will closing facilities ease staffing? How will that ease emergency room overcrowding, when more patients will be trekking to fewer available facilities. Will patient volume somehow miraculously decline?)

The local health system needs to be modernized. (competition by its nature strives to improve and modernize its facilities and practices…something the Liberal’s health care monopoly is cosily protected from. Why should they 'modernize' (whatever that actually means) anyway? They don’t have to!! It’s not like they won’t get paid at the end of the day no matter how poorly they provide a service…in a no-choice, non-competitive monopoly, there is no real incentive to reinvest. The NHS facilities are oddly all sort of stopped in time in the 1960’s – when Tommy Douglas’s Great Leap Forward occurred, major local hospital redevelopment stopped.)

In an effort to address these issues, in particular the inability of the NHS to balance its budget, (why…it’s not because the Liberals funding model was faulty, was it?!)

the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network requested the HIP.
(that’s an interesting spin, that the LHIN, in their designated role in this health-care soap-opera as the ‘bad-guys’, “requested” this – but wasn’t it AFTER KIM CRAITOR started making noises about the NHS?
And wasn’t that AFTER the now-conveniently forgotten 2007 Ontario auditor’s report, which slammed the Liberal’s health system?
And didn’t Craitor begin to seriously start making theses noises back in early Dec. 2007 – only several days AFTER the Liberals were embarrassed by the revelation at the end of Nov. 2007 (conveniently for the Liberals, after the election!) that that the NHS hospital in St. Catharines had the third highest death-rate in Canada??
Wasn’t this when the NHS circus of ‘reviewing the reviews’ began, and former Liberal health minister Smitherman at the time hemmed-and-hawed about whether he even wanted to bother to do anything, anyway?
The same Smitherman who said that the NHS was in some kind of spending “free-for-all”? And Good Ole Jim Bradley – from St. Catharines – said SWEET FLICK ALL about the high mortality rate in his own riding!
Jimmy didn’t bother to call for any investigation!!
Jimmy even downplayed that a “review” was only “routine stuff’, anyway – nothing to see here, folks…move on!!
Let’s not pretend and spin it that somehow the LHIN initiated this HIP - there were many earlier underlying signs that the NHS was in serious trouble.
But it is crucial to note, that Jim Bradley to this day has not provided an explanation for the high death-rate in his own riding’s hospital.
The Liberals out and out denied that there was any funding link problem related to the high death-rate – and suddenly from that – we’ve got a major Niagara hospital consolidation plan!?! How are these things connected?? The Standard claims it’s because the NHS needs to balance its budget – but that doesn’t explain the death rate. Will the death-rate go up if the NHS cuts its spending?)

The result is a good blueprint prepared by Niagara doctors and nurses expected to shave $31.9 million off NHS expenditures, and turn a $17.9-million deficit last year into a $1.5-million surplus by 2013.
The deficit for this year is projected at $16.1 million. (Oh yay…more financial smoke and mirrors: again, what is “extra”, in a closed monopoly system, funded solely by the whim of the Liberal government?
It’s not “extra” at all, it’s just spin – it’s really an acknowledgement of lack of planning and of initial budgetary underfunding, isn’t it?! These “extras” are happily ‘topped up’ by politicians at convenient photo-ops.
Also, how - and why - would the NHS operate with a future surplus, for cryin’ out loud?! Similarly – how can a “surplus” exist in this same closed system – that also is a sign of inefficient capital deployment. There is no correlation between costs and expenses and services and efficiencies in Ontario’s closed, single-payer, central-planning-managed health care monopoly.
The ‘normal’ forces of a market have been purposefully skewed by socialist health-care economic policies. The concept of deficits and surpluses is an artificial construct within the monopoly, governed at the whim of the controlling majority Liberal government through their Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act.
‘Saving money’ by consolidating health services within a monopoly construct does not benefit the patient – it’s for strengthening the monopoly. These two goals are mutually exclusive – as the charade of the NHS plan is showing itself to be. We are told to accept the cuts, because we have to save some socialist system – which breeds more cuts.)

What is needed to calm the hysteria is some understanding about what is being proposed.

When you tell someone the emergency room in their community hospital is closing, it's understandable that they will get a little anxious, if not panic-stricken.
What many don't seem to know is that the emergency departments at Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie and Port Colborne General will be converted to prompt care centres.
This could be where the NHS needs to improve its message. (the message of bait and switch?)

There are two main differences between prompt care centres and emergency rooms. One, ambulances don't drop patients off at prompt care centres. Two, prompt care centres close overnight.
If the HIP is accepted and adopted, Douglas Memorial and Port Colborne General will effectively have fully-functioning emergency rooms -- open from 8 a. m. to 10 p. m. NHS senior staff say that will cover 97 per cent of the patients who currently frequent emergency services in those facilities. (so folks, make sure you don’t have an accident during the hours that your no-choice healthcare monopoly is closed! The reason it is closed is because we need to save the system, not necessarily YOU!
Man, I hope Michael Sicko Moore can use this comedy material for his next propaganda film)

As for obstetrics, maternity services will still be available in Niagara. But the field of medicine will be specialized and improved in the new St. Catharines hospital. It's a bit a drive for some, but it's not onerous. Many people in this province, both urban and rural, live a 30-minute drive, or more, from their closest hospital. (hey look – the beginnings of the 100-mile health care diet! It’s not onerous for you to drive/walk/crawl/be carried further to save Tommy Douglas’s reputation, is it?)

Absent the HIP prepared by the NHS, reforms could be imposed on the local health system from above.
(oh … you mean, just like Good Ole Jimmy Bradley threatened and fearmongered that Harris would do?! Such as that Harris “would threaten institutions and organizations who have been cut off at the knees by drastic cuts that they will be cut even further or closed should they not cooperate” - as Jim Bradley said in the Legislature (noted earlier) on Sept. 25, 1996?!!
Precious stuff…really!)

"If the ministry feels a hospital is not dealing with issues appropriately, it has the authority to send in an supervisor," NHS CEO Debbie Sevenpifer told an editorial board of Osprey Media's Niagara newspapers Thursday.
That supervisor would have the power to draft a reform plan and impose it on the local hospital system, and there are no guarantees it would be change that is for the best in Niagara. (if the ministry had sent in a supervisor, then the Ombudsman could legally investigate the NHS!!
Why didn’t the Standard’s editorial board ask the NHS whether they think that step would be preferable – for patient well-being?
Why didn’t the Standard also ask the NHS at the time to explain the reasons for their having the hospital with the third-highest mortality rate in Canada?
Why not ask the NHS how much information was provided about this situation to local MPP Jim Bradley’s Liberal government prior to his Oct.2007 re-election?
Was the Liberal’s funding model in any way related to the high mortality rate found by CIHI in Nov.2007?)

"We have all these services and programs in Niagara, but the ministry could dictate moving services out of the region," said Dr. Jeff Cranford, NHS chief of surgery. "If the LHIN wants to move services to Hamilton, there is nothing we can do about it.
(yikes … who’s spreading the alarmism now?
“Nothing we can do about it”?! That’s a telling attitude, and it contains a crucial insight: Patients can do NOTHING, because by Liberal law, we are trapped in their health care monopoly.
This is exactly what the McCreith/Holmes constitutional health-care challenge against McGuinty’s health system is all about.
We are forced to believe doomsday scenarios that “There is nothing we can do” because we are forced into this bind by the Liberals.
We are then fooled into believing that some stinking Liberals will then magically solve the problems, which they themselves were instrumental in creating.
Of course we can do something about it – we can ban Liberal healthcare monopolies. We can have patient-payer choices. We can have a private-parallel health system. Or, we can just close down more Niagara hospitals.)

"That is partly why it is important this plan be sensible, doable and hard for them to reject."
(once again, roll over for the Liberals, eh? Once again, kow-tow to please the Liberal monopolist masters!)

The HIP plan is solid, will help the NHS get out of the red and was made in Niagara by Niagara health-care professionals.
(again, why is the NHS in the red, and, why is that some kind of problem? Has it been proven that the NHS somehow squandered funds not for patient care? Has anyone actually investigated? Why isn’t the Liberal’s monopolist funding model - you know, the one Liberals adamantly kept saying is fine – not the focus of attention?)

It is a change, yes. But it is not change to fear. In the end, this plan will make health care in Niagara better, stronger and more efficient.” (hopeful conjecture)
If one re-reads the St. Catharines Standard’s editorial of Dec.4, 2007 (see: Ontario's broken health system cure: a big box of Band-Aids), and compares it to their July 26, 2008 Liberal-friendly apologist editorial above, it’s hard to believe that they are now writing about the same health care system!!

It’s hard to believe that within seven months, the Standard’s “new approach” to a “broken health care system” would really only amount to tinkering with closures and consolidations, and of acquiescing to the disease of 'status-quo' Liberal health care duplicity. (ie, the Liberal ass-kissing continues unabated...)

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