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Suffering from Chronic Hospital Attacks!


Steve Campbell

I usually like irony, but sometimes it’s bittersweet. Hot on the heels of announcing the need for County Independence – freedom from a provincial government that appears to be blind and deaf to the needs and requirements of rural Ontario – they pull one more bonehead idea out of their hat.
In their search for $10 million dollars in cost-savings, they are threatening once again to strip our hospital down by nine beds, and close some of our much-needed health services. For those of you who like to study finances, $10 mill is roughly what the government blows on each of its several poorly-planned and bungled projects, like shutting down electrical plants which are partly built, in order to win Liberal seats.

So the Local Health Integration Network was chosen to deliver the bad news. What is a LHIN? In 2006, the province created 14 of them, and gave them the task of handling the money for part of Ontario’s $45 billion health budget.
The Hamilton Spectator reported that, in 2010, the LHINs gleaned 68 million out of that budget, so clearly there’s no cost cutting that can be done there. The Spec reported that each of the LHIN chairs bring in $350 a day in wages.
In 2010, the Ontario Ombudsman, in a report called The LHIN Spin, questioned the operations and expenditures of these groups and said, among other things, they held “almost meaningless” community consultations. (Source, Hamilton Spectator.)
So enough about them. I think you can see clearly that budget shortfalls should fall on the shoulders of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital, where enormous amounts of dimes and quarters are being wasted on supplying proper health care for rural Ontarians.

At first, I was sure I was the only one upset about this, but let’s hear the cheery responses from some of our locals:
MPP Todd Smith says: “If we put money into frontline services, into nurses and doctors and beds instead of bureaucrats or LHIN offices, we’d have the money to maintain outpatient physiotherapy or obstetrics in Picton.” (Source,
County Mayor Peter Mertens expressed disappointment in this new attack on PECMH, and its place in the community: “What’s most important to residents of (the) County is the hospital. So they’re disappointed and discouraged. They raised $750,000 last year for new equipment. They’re feeling abandoned and let down.”

I think he got that right. He also understood the changing face of  health care in the County, and more reliance on non-hospital care. Family Health Team president Dr. Elizabeth Christie (who is my new personal hero) gave a detailed presentation on the specifics of health care in the County, while acknowledging the need for change.
To me, she demonstrated how little the LHIN knew or cared about the unique needs of rural patients.
“Bed cuts are a euphemism for cutting people,” she said, “for nurses, allied health staff, lab techs, pharmacists, physiotherapists – people who are directly responsible for patient care.” (Source:
“Ontario has fewer beds per capita of any province (2.5 beds/1000 people) … compared to 32 OECD countries, Ontario is fourth from the bottom, just above Turkey, Chile and Mexico.”
Now there’s a sobering thought! Might make a great Liberal campaign slogan: “Yay! Just above Chile in Health Care, but still cutting!”

One of Dr. Christie’s strongest points, and I’ll paraphrase her here, is that the LHIN needs to wait until this community-based back-up care system is up and running. In other words, LHIN is cutting before the system is in place to absorb the consequences.
Much of our trouble started in 1998, when PECMH amalgamated with QHC. Governments always believe, “bigger is better, and more efficient” but it rarely is. In my opinion, now Belleville gets the juice, and we get the pits.

Former mayor and QHC board member Leo Finnegan came up with a brilliant observation: “(This proposal) brings the total number (of beds) to 12 – just three more beds than when the first hospital opened in 1919 with nine beds.”
“I have lost confidence in QHC. The position they have brought forward is unacceptable … put (the) alternatives in place, prove they work, then come back and talk to us.” (Source:

Quinte West Mayor John Williams was even more direct, speaking on cuts in Trenton: “We’re not going down this road again. Personally, I’ve had enough. You tell the LHIN to have a nice day. The cuts are unfair to the community, doctors and nurses. I hope you take that message back to the LHIN.” (Source, County Weekly News.)
From the same source, one Trenton councillor said: “All this is money-driven, it’s not patient-driven.”
Couldn’t agree more.

Sadly, these cuts are not just Liberal territory. We have been suffering ongoing attacks for decades, through several reigns by several parties. It wasn’t that long ago I was attacking Mike Harris with the same fervour.
Many of us question whether we need LHINs at all, but someone behind enemy lines (can’t find the source) said this would be “chaos”.
Once again, an insult to the hundreds of County health care professions – doctors, nurses, admin staff, etc. – over the years who took care of us quite well, thank you. And yet another clear declaration by the province that us dull-witted County folk just don’t got the smarts to run fancy-ass stuff like this here hospital thingie.

Check your calendar and check your notes – we did quite fine without you for many years. And it might be worth mentioning: LHINs did not build our hospitals. We did. That’s right, the community. Through millions of dollars in personal donations. Through the efforts of the Hospital Auxiliary, the Women’s Institutes, the service clubs, the Cornerstone Hospital Foundation, and countless unknown and unnamed contributors.

As Finnegan indicated, the cheers in 1965 – when a new 40-bed wing was added to the existing 58 – are nothing but a quiet echo now. Many of the souls who gathered in the parking lot that day have passed on. In Picton.
Let’s hope the ‘Memorial’ part of PECMH does not become way too fitting.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Kathie Schutta says:

    Thanks so much, Steve…great article…well written, researched and emoted…taking good care of our friends and neighbours is what defines all of us who are honoured to call The County ‘home’…I believe that amalgamation only tried to ‘compartmentalize’ all communities and neighbourhoods into the same box…hearing that the hospital and staff may not be able to care for their patients due to ‘over-governance’ makes me feel angry and disenfranchised…as I am certain a lot of you do…

  2. Doris Lane says:

    Marvellous article Steve. You have all the important facts in this article. Why is PEC always the whipping boy?

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