Thursday, April 29, 2010

Are McGuinty's Liberals suppressing the Ombudsman's report on Niagara's LHIN?

Where is the promised Ombudsman's report on McGuinty's Liberal-created, appointed, and funded, LHIN health network?

Back in January 2010 (see here; see here) it was reported that the Ombudsman's investigation into the Liberal's LHIN was ready, and that Ontario's ombudsman Andre Marin was supposedly close to releasing it within several weeks.

What has happened to this report? Has it disappeared?

Ray Spiteri reported in "Marin set to release report", (Welland Tribune, Jan.28, 2010):

"Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin has completed his investigation into the public consultation process followed by the agency that oversees hospitals in Niagara.

"Mr. Marin is getting ready to release his findings sometime in the next several weeks," spokeswoman Linda Williamson said of the investigation that started last March. "He will not be commenting publicly prior to the release."

The provincial government watchdog received 37 complaints about the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network from residents, community associations, health-care professionals and a Hamilton-area MPP.

Of those, 13 were about the Niagara Health System's hospital improvement plan.

The rest concerned the LHIN's consideration of Hamilton Health Sciences' proposal for changes at McMaster University Medical Centre.

In Niagara, complainants felt the LHIN did not consult enough with residents on a controversial restructuring plan for hospitals, including closing emergency departments in Fort Erie and Port Colborne.

LHIN chief executive officer Pat Mandy said she has "no idea" what to expect from Marin's report and, like everybody else, she is awaiting the ombudsman's findings.

"We certainly co-operated with the investigation. We gave the ombudsman's office all of the information that they requested, and they met with several of us," said Mandy.

"Part of the LHIN's role is community engagement and we've been involved, I think, in significant community engagement right from the inception of the LHIN (in 2005)."

Sue Salzer, head of a community group opposed to recent changes at Douglas Memorial Hospital, said she has been anticipating Marin's report for months.

"It was originally scheduled, as we were told by (the ombudsman's) office, for the end of October.

"Then it was the end of November. And now I have correspondence from them that indicates that the ombudsman himself ... will meet with the premier previous to the release of the report," said Salzer.

"Based on everything that we have heard from people who have been extensively interviewed by them, we feel that it may cast some aspersions upon the operation of the LHIN with respect to their public consultations."

Marin's findings will be all the more timely, given the recent calls for a coroner's inquest into whether Reilly Anzovino, an 18-year-old Fort Erie woman fatally injured in a car crash on Boxing Day, might still be alive if the Fort Erie emergency department had still been operating.

The collision happened on Hwy. 3 near Nigh Rd. Anzovino was just 16 kilometres from Douglas Memorial Hospital, but the ER there closed in September, forcing the ambulance to take nearly twice as long to transport the teen to the nearest hospital in Welland.

Anzovino died en route to Welland County General Hospital. But Niagara residents' health-care concerns are not limited to Fort Erie.

In December, Niagara Falls city council called for the appointment of a provincial investigator to look into concerns raised by the Ontario Medical Association's emergency medicine section about the operation of the ER at Greater Niagara General Hospital.

Williamson said the ombudsman did not assess the merits of the Hamilton and Niagara restructuring proposals during his investigation. Rather, Marin's investigation focused on the LHIN's role in the decisions made and alleged problems with the process, including complaints of insufficient consultation.

The ombudsman's role is to ensure government accountability through oversight of the administration of services. While the ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over hospitals, he does have jurisdiction over LHINs.

The LHIN in this area is the second-largest in the province, covering 1.4 million residents.

This is the first ombudsman investigation into one of the province's 14 LHINs, created five years ago as part of the McGuinty government's plan to hand over the responsibility for health-care funding and planning to local appointees."

In January 2010 the press was reporting that the Ombudsman's report was to have been released within several weeks - it's now May... so: WHERE IS THIS REPORT ?!

Why has the Ombudsman's report still not been made public?

Are McGuinty's secretive Liberals suppressing the Ombudsman's office?

Why aren't Niagara Liberal MPP's Kim Craitor and Jim Bradley saying anything about this?

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