Susan Howlett wrote in "Province's Ombudsman launches probe into ER closings", (Globe and Mail, Jan.26, 2010, here):
"A provincially appointed health agency that gave the green light to permanently closing the emergency departments in two Ontario hospitals is under investigation by the Ombudsman's office.
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin is probing complaints that the agency did not consult enough with local residents before approving a controversial restructuring plan for the Niagara region hospitals, including closing the two emergency departments.
Mr. Marin will release his finding in the next few weeks, a spokeswoman said. He launched his probe into the agency, known in government parlance as the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), after receiving 37 complaints.
His report will be all the more timely, given the calls for a coroner's inquest into whether Reilly Anzovino, a Fort Erie teen fatally injured in a car accident on Boxing Day, might still be alive if the emergency department at the local hospital had been open.
This is the first time the Ombudsman has investigated one of the province's 14 LHINs, created four years ago as part of the McGuinty government's plan to hand over control of hospitals and nursing homes to local appointees.
Each LHIN is governed by a nine-member board of directors appointed by the province. The idea is that the LHIN, rather than government, decides how to spend scarce healthcare
dollars, based on input from local residents, plus an evaluation of the impact on the community.
The Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN is accused of ignoring these principles. One former board member said he resigned in protest in September, 2008, following the LHIN's decision to close the only emergency department in the west end of Hamilton to adults, making it available only to children.
In his letter of resignation, obtained by The Globe and Mail, Stephen Birch, a professor of health economics at Hamilton's McMaster University, says he is "shocked" that the board approved the plan for the Hamilton hospital, even though the briefing note provided to directors clearly stated that "there are no published studies that evaluate possible harm caused by bypassing the closest hospital."
Pat Mandy, chief executive officer of the LHIN, said she has no plans to change how it operates until she sees the Ombudsman's report.
"Since the inception of the LHIN, we've continued to do significant community engagement, so we'll be interested to see his perspective," she said.
But even before Ms. Anzovino's death, the LHIN's decisions had sparked controversy. Paul Dobrovolskis said he and four other emergency room doctors in the hospital in Niagara Falls resigned last September over the region's "systematic dismantling" of emergency rooms.
The Niagara Health System, which operates seven hospitals, closed the emergency departments in Fort Erie and Port Colborne last year as part of a plan, approved by the LHIN, to find $28-million in cost savings.
The Ontario Health Coalition yesterday joined Ms. Anzovino's family in calling for an inquest to determine whether the 18-year-old's life was cut short because it took an ambulance nearly twice as long to transport her to the next nearest hospital in Welland.
"This raises the issue of the human costs of hospital budget cuts across Ontario," said coalition head Natalie Mehra.
Sue Salzer, head of a community group called the Yellow Shirt Brigade, brought the problems to the attention of an all-party government committee yesterday in Niagara Falls, where public hearings began on the provincial budget.
"All the problems here in Niagara started in late 2008, when a hospital improvement plan was designed by staff of the Niagara Health System, and subsequently rubber stamped by the LHIN board," she said in her prepared remarks."
This is not the first time the Ombudsman's Office has examined the McGuinty/Bradley/Craitor health monopoly here in Niagara: Andre Marin is familiar with how McGuinty's health monopoly has dealt with Niagarans; he had already issued a scathing report on the McGuinty Liberals' mistreatment of St.Catharines resident Suzanne Aucoin, who was forced to seek cancer treatment in the United States.
For details on how despotic Liberals such as premier Dalton McGuinty and that incompetent clown of a health minister, George Smitherman (who's now, frighteningly, running for mayor of Toronto) acted in Aucoin's case, read "Liberal Healthcare Duplicity, An Ontario Overview, 2003-2007" here, see pages: 8, 9, 45, 56, 62, 69-75.
Furthermore, "All the problems here in Niagara" DID NOT "start in 2008"; this is nonsense: McGuinty's healthcare duplicity can be traced right back to:
- Greg Sorbara's first budget in 2004, where he declared he was going to reduce health care spending (here);
- to Smitherman's authoritarian Commitment to the Fututre of Medicare act;
- to Smitherman's imposition of the Liberal-appointed, government-funded LHIN firewall/bureaucracy
- to McGuinty's unprecedented new multi-billion dollar health tax ... all authoritarian, statist, big-government measures which deny Ontario patients one significant thing: the right to by-pass the government and buy our own non-government-controlled health-care.
This is NOT a Niagara-only health care problem, (see here); this is an ideological, province-wide political pandemic, caused by Liberal political duplicity - this is a systemic ideological infection.
The ombudsman should be looking at the McGuinty Liberal government's monopolist health-care incompetence throughout the entire province; but, seeing as the ombudsman's resources are limited, at least the ombudsman's investigation of Niagara's Liberal-controlled LHIN could become a template for all the LHIN's, (see here).
The deaths of Anzovino, Don Davis (here), Helen Harris (here), and countless other Ontarians, must at some point - and soon - be examined in not only a medical, but a political, light.
Why - to this day, in 2010 - has no Liberal called for an investigation into the Nov.2007 CIHI revelation that the St.Catharines hospital in the Niagara Health System had the third-highest death rate in Canada?! (see here)
It should be plainly obvious that the NHS's Nov.2007 high-death-rate revelation (still un-investigated) DIRECTLY LED to the July-Oct. 2008 Hospital Improvement Plan (HIP) by Dr. Kitts (see here; here) - which is now the subject of the ombudsman's investigation!!
By Dec.2007, the McGuinty/Smitherman Liberals were denying that there was any link between the NHS death-rate and the Liberal's health care funding model (see spokeswoman Laurel Ostfield here); and that's the LAST ANYONE HAS HEARD ABOUT IT; yet, as we have seen, the very essence of the HIP plan was plainly all about SAVING MONEY!!
Also, in Nov.2008, just after the Kitts report was accepted, calls to appoint a provincial supervisor for the NHS were ignored by the McGuinty/Caplan Liberals (see here): that significant action alone is worth examining: was that an act of negligence by McGuinty's Liberals, leading to the events which the Ombudsman is now investigating in 2010? Why did McGuinty's despotic, typically arrogant Liberals IGNORE this call by the health-care-cut-affected local Niagara municipalities?
Even in Dec.2008, the Liberal health spokesman Steve Irwin was saying, amazingly, "We can't continue to have health-care spending rise at the rate it has in the past" (here): this was unbelievably amazing because it was being said WHILE THE McGUINTY MONOPOLISTS CONTINUED TO DENY ONTARIANS ANY OTHER CHOICE!!
Really - does Andre Marin have the jurisdiction to deal with matters of constitutional infringement?! Because that's ultimately what this is all about: incompetent, despotic Liberal monopolists controlling by unreasonable and unaccountable fiat the health-care of some thirteen million Ontarians.
[By the way, have you seen the McGuinty government's TV ads running in mid-Jan.2010, touting how 'healthcare is nearby' when you need it?!
Really: was that what happened in Anzovino's case?!
Or was that ad just another Big-Brother-health-care-propaganda effort by the McGuinty/Matthews Liberals? What do McGuinty's Liberals specifically mean when they claim care is "nearby"; and specifically how 'near' is "nearby" in Port Colborne, or in Fort Erie; and, what exactly are McGuinty/Matthews definitions of "need", and of "when", and of "nearby"??!
Is the U.S. "nearby" when it comes to McGuinty's definition of health care? And, mentioning the States, remember how Liberals Jim Bradley and Smitherman agitated to ban the American firm LifeLine (here, pg.45; here; here) to offer cardiac screening clinics in Ontario? Now, we're hearing how Ontarians are all fat and suffering cardiac problems. Maybe the ombudsman can also examine the Liberals' complicity in compounding today's problem by having banned - for purely ideological reasons - this provider. How many Ontarians died because of that Liberal move?]