Friday, November 14, 2008

Ombudsman should investigate Niagara LHIN

Grant LaFleche wrote in “Ombudsman dealing with NHS restructuring plan complaint”, (St. Catharines Standard, Nov.14, 2008):

"Ontario’s ombudsman has received two complaints about the Niagara Health System’s restructuring plans, but the government oversight body isn’t saying what the complaints are.

Nor is the ombudsman’s office saying who made the complaints.

“We keep that confidential,” spokeswoman Linda Williamson said. “The complaints were, essentially, someone saying, ‘They are closing my hospital.’ ”

Williamson said the complaints were directed at the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) rather than the NHS itself.

Williamson said the ombudsman has no authority to investigate hospitals, but can investigate a Local Health Integration Network because it is a government body.

However, she said it is “far too premature” to say the complaints about the NHS plan will be investigated.

The NHS restructuring plan has drawn heavy fire from several quarters in Niagara. The plan to move maternity services to St. Catharines as well as turn the emergency rooms in Fort Erie and Port Colborne into prompt-care centres have sparked opposition.

The LHIN is currently examining a review of the plan recently completed by Dr. Jack Kitts of Ottawa. Kitts largely endorsed the plan, but recommended the Fort Erie and Port Colborne facilities be 24-hour urgent-care centres.

Some vocal critics of the NHS plan, including Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin and the “hospital improvement plan fight-back” committee at Niagara Falls city hall, denied Friday they were behind the complains made to the ombudsman."


It's time that the Liberal's entire health system - the one Smitherman once said we 'didn't have' - went under detailed, independent scrutiny from the Ombudsman's office.

It is a good start to look into the LHIN and see what McGuinty's Liberals directed it to do since the Liberals established, appointed and funded this health bureaucracy by passing Bill 36 on Mar.1, 2006.

But, further investigation needs to be held into the St. Catharines General Hospital's patient death-rate, which was revealed in a Nov.29, 2007 CIHI study as the third-highest in Canada, and which has never been mentioned or explained by any Liberal since.

When Williamson says that the Ombudsman has no authority to investigate hospitals, again, why is this so? It's because Jim Bradley, McGuinty, Smitherman, Caplan, and their Liberal majority Ontario government have decided NOT TO ALLOW the Ombudsman access to their hospitals! The LHIN is also a creature of the Liberal government; Health Minister David Caplan can at any time override anything the LHIN does!

The Liberals could ask for an investigation into the NHS immediately! If the Liberals appointed a supervisor to run the NHS, then the ombudsman COULD investigate the NHS's hospitals as well.

It is patently obvious that this IS NOT what the Liberals want to do.

They fear any independent scrutiny of their hospital system, or of the funding decisions and budget constraints that the McGuinty Liberals have imposed on their health-monopoly system's administrators. In this underlying political climate, decisions are made by McGuinty's Liberals impacting patients being held hostage to a no-choice, single-payer monopoly; who are at the same time unable -by Liberal law -to obtain their health care privately when the government refuses or is negligent in doing so in a timely manner. [Hence, the basis of the McCreith/Holmes health-care charter challenge launched against the McGuinty government.]

It's been nearly a year since CIHI's mortality-rate report was released, yet Jim Bradley did NOTHING; he did not even bother to call for an investigation at the time, neither did he bother to provide an explanation himself.

Did Jim Bradley, the St. Catharines MPP since 1977, not know what was happening at the St. Catharines General Hospital, in his own riding?

Were the CIHI study results a 'surprise' to him?

Only a month and a half prior to the CIHI report, Bradley was campaigning in the Oct. 2007 provincial election, smugly pretending that there were no problems in Ontario's, or in Niagara's, health care system!

Putting aside the high mortality-rate issue, the Kitts report also noted that the NHS was underfunded, echoing what the NHS itself has said on numerous occasions.

Yet, Jim Bradley's odious Liberals simply deny (without providing transparent evidence) that there is any link between the high NHS death-rate, the HIP, and the Liberal's health funding model. The Liberals instituted a multi-billion dollar Health Tax which was supposed to solve all of their monopoly-health-care problems. Where did all that money go? Was it effectively spent? Who really knows? Jim Bradley certainly can't be bothered to answer.

Didn't Bradley know that his health care claims were false, even as he was campaigning for re-election? Bradley's secretiveness and subsequent negligence to provide answers regarding his Liberal health-care monopoly's failings are themselves worthy of investigation. What's Bradley hiding - the failure of his ideology; the failure of his statist, single-payer, monopolist status-quo?

Here's what Conservative MPP Jim Wilson wrote about the LHIN's (Queen's Park Report, Mar.7, 2006), just several days after McGuinty's majority Liberal government pushed this bill through:

"Despite my best objections, on March 1, 2006, the McGuinty Liberals rammed Bill 36 through the Ontario Legislature, despite mounting opposition and many pleas for further consultation.

Bill 36 has come to be better known as the LHIN (Local Health Integration Networks) legislation. What this legislation does is overhaul Ontario’s entire healthcare system by adding more bureaucracy, centralizing power and hastening the process of privatization.

Maybe this is what McGunity and Smitherman had envisioned all along, using your hard earned tax dollars that they raised through the illegal Liberal health tax to hire an army of overpriced bureaucrats and administrators to help make health care services in Ontario less accessible to the average user. And the Liberals won’t even attempt to deny this accusation. Even they estimate that Bill 36 will cost the province in excess of $160 million to administer the newly created LHINs, money that I think could have been better used to offer front line health services.

The Liberals claim that LHINs will decentralize the health care system and allow local administrators more local control, and for the Liberals this was the whole point of introducing the legislation in the first place. But a closer look tells you that this Bill will actually centralize power in the hands of the Minister as he has the power to appoint the LHIN board at his complete discretion. And what if the board makes a decision that he doesn’t agree with? No big deal, Bill 36 gives the Minister the power to override any decision that the board makes. I’m not sure how a Liberal appointed LHIN board, people who serve at the pleasure of the Minister, will serve the interest of local control?

This is exactly what the PC party, and our leader John Tory has been highlighting over the past few months, “this legislation gives the Health Minister the ability to unilaterally close hospitals, other healthcare services and transfer charitable gifts from one institution to another without any consultation,” states Tory.

Liberals claim they are dedicated to preserving public health care, but their actions indicate otherwise. Since the Liberals took office over two years ago they have privatized physiotherapy, chiropractic and optometry services. They are also moving forward with public-private partnerships with the building of new hospitals, something they so vigorously opposed while in opposition. I believe that Bill 36 will only aid the Liberals in their efforts to further privatize many of Ontario’s important health care services.

My position and the position of the PC Party, that LHINs will centralize power in the hands of the Minster and lead to further privatization, is shared by many others, including those who work in the field. These are the individuals and groups who the Liberals have callously disregarded as they moved this legislation forward. Bea Levis, member of the Ontario Health Coalition board says, “This legislation grants major new powers to Cabinet, the minister, and his appointees in the LHINs to order restructuring, amalgamations, closures and contracting out in the health system.”

Despite McGunity’s and Smitherman’s best efforts to confuse and mislead you into believing that LHINs will promote local control and improve the service that Ontarian’s receive from their health care providers, don’t be fooled. How can legislation that centralizes power and strengthens the Minister really be about local control? What I think should have happened is the Liberals should have listened to the objections of those who work in the health care profession and scraped this legislation a long time ago. I rejected similar proposals when I was the Minister of Health and that is exactly what Smitherman should have done too!"


When Wilson wrote (above) that "Liberals claim they are dedicated to preserving public healthcare, but their actions indicate otherwise", that is an observation describing classic Liberal Healthcare Duplicity.

As I wrote back on Mar.12, 2008 in Doing our best not be bruised by the velvet fist of socialized medicare :

"This Liberal health-care monopoly charade just keeps on getting worse. Liberals like Craitor keep on spitting into the wind with their ‘Potemkin-village’ calls for some half-assed “operational” review of the NHS.

Having the Ministry of Health investigate itself will yield a report as phony as a three dollar bill. (which the Oct. 2008 Kitts report was)

The problem here is one of trust and accountability: there is none. (which is why the NHS, as of Nov.12, 2008, has a new facilitator/advisor", Dr. Chris Carruthers, to try to deal with the NHS's Medical Staff Association which passed a motion expressing non-confidence in the management of the NHS) This Liberal-run health system has no competition, no checks, no balances. We have no idea about the cost-effectiveness or appropriateness of any random Liberal health-care funding allocation. We just have to take their word for it, and accept what's handed out to us: legally, we have no alternatives.

The Liberals, in my opinion, can’t be trusted as the sole-distributors of health-care in Ontario, simply because they are held-harmless and unaccountable for the blow-back to patients caused by their Liberal health care duplicity. No criminal or civil charges will hold anyone to blame. The Liberals view their re-election as a pass to wreak more monopoly havoc upon Ontario patients. The Liberals believe only they have a divine right to spend the some-38 billion dollars of our health-care tax money."


Well, we've now seen this 'operational review' to 'review of reviews' to 'HIP' to 'Kitts report' political smoke-screen eat up almost an entire year. Now, a possible Ombudsman's look into the sacrificial-by-design LHIN will take what, another year?; that could and should lead into an investigation of the NHS itself; and then, before the heat gets too hot and Liberal politicians start being asked serious questions about how they ran their health-monopoly, an election will come along and it'll be time for Jim Bradley to retire. The smug Liberals will in the meantime stoically protect themselves by deflecting criticism to their sacrificial LHIN - as, of course, was the plan all along.

Hopefully, the McCreith/Holmes constitutional court challenge (see: Another Canadian patient forced to U.S. for treatment due to long Ontario wait lists) against McGuinty's health-care monopoly will be handed down before then, exposing the Liberal's authoritarian ideology.

But, that should not stop the Ombudsman from fully investigating and revealing what the Liberals have done to the health-care system in their trust since 2003.

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