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The LHINS spin

On August 9th, Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin released a scathing report on the transparency and accountability of the 14 Local Health Integration Networks. As a point of interest in November ’09, Bancroft Mayor Lloyd Churchill (former QHC Board Chair) stated in the local media at that time there were grave concerns about the transparency of the LHINS by the Ontario municipal mayors and wardens.

In his report the Ombudsman exposed a secret illegal bylaw that enables LHINS Bureaucrats to hold closed door meetings on hospital closures. In particular, he was referring to the Hamilton Niagara LHIN which passed a bylaw allowing board members to hold private discussions on closing emergency rooms. This was clearly a violation of provincial legislation requiring public meetings. Mr. Marin called the Hamilton area LHIN “sneaky” and stated that its actions have undermined public confidence in not only its own LHIN but by extension the other 13 LHINS across the province that have adopted the same bylaw. He goes on to say that the public are left to wonder if the meetings that they are allowed to attend are just a rubber stamp. He states, “People are not stupid.”.

The 14 decision making LHINS committees were created by the Liberal government in 2007 to hand out 21.5 Billion in health funding. This funding comes out of taxpayer’s dollars. Our local southeast LHIN (headquartered in Belleville) has approximately a 300 Million dollar budget with approximately 3 Million being spent on administration. Former Minister of Health, George Smitherman had promised that the LHINS’ decisions must be made in full view of the public.

This clearly has not taken place province wide.

Under its own government legislation the LHINS were to be reviewed in two years after they assumed power. The McGuinty government has now put that off until 2012 after the provincial election.

Last spring Barbara Proctor(Chair of the Prince Edward Health Care Advisory Committee) was part of cross province hearings on healthcare. The non partisan panel was made up of doctors, nurses, health professionals and representatives of every geographic region of the province. She stated that the overall theme was that there was a great deal of mistrust between the LHINS and the communities and their municipal leaders. The panel determined that the LHINS were very lacking in public confidence. Local columnist Steve Campbell said it best when he stated that the government hasn’t noticed that rural hospitals have been raped and pillaged by them for money.

You only have to look at cuts in communities such as Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Welland, Niagara Falls, Peterborough and Cobourg not to mention Trenton and Picton. It is hopeful that residents especially in rural areas remain vigilant and not become complacent with regard to their local healthcare. It is imperative that we all keep an eye on “who is driving the bus”. In this case the McGuinty government and their mandarins – the 14 LHINS across the province.

Fran Renoy, Picton

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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