A mere six months ago, a grassroot campaign was started to recapture the public agenda from Northumberland Hills Hospital. Two citizen groups were founded, public meetings were held and publicity campaigns were launched as people tried to push out an autocratic regime bent on reducing services.
The initiative ended when efforts to get new board members elected failed during a tightly controlled annual general meeting. Since then, the citizen groups have gone quiet. The hospital and its board marshal on like a triumphant army with their scorch earth policies. Services are being amalgamated, joint projects are announced with glee. Meanwhile, the hospital carries on with its slashing and cost reductions.
While health care is a provincial responsibility, municipal candidates in West Northumberland need to address what will be done to save services and bring the board to heel. At the very least, the municipality needs to appoint a member of council, possibly several, to the board. This representation would signify a level of public accountability currently missing. And, it could be a counterweight to the provincial government (read LHIN’s) actions locally.
Belleville council fought a bitter battle, but won this right. It is time Cobourg, Port Hope, Hamilton Township and the other municipalities served by Northumberland Hills Hospital to step up. Each contributed large sums of money to see it built. And, they contribute a lot of money to doctor recruitment. Board representation, despite what other local initiatives are going, must demand a place at the decision-making table.