By Robert Washburn
It appears consultants and bureaucrats are more important than you and me when it comes to any discussion of proposed changes to Northumberland Hills Hospital.
And, any sense of transparency or public accountability has gone out the window, according to media reports last week.
“A directive (was released late Monday) to defer internal and external engagement activities regarding 2016/2017…the first phase of the Hospital Improvement Plan,” according to the local news media.
Meanwhile, the Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN) floated tidbits to the public in its own report on a consultant’s recommendations regarding $2.5 million in cuts to the hospital over two years. There will be changes to support services, medical and surgical units, as well as combining the restorative and palliative care units. And, of course, there will be staffing changes.
There is also a recommendation for clinical efficiencies and integration to save another $2 million to $3 million over the next few years.
Bottom line: it is not enough to bail out the hospital.
The lack of details is the problem. Moreover, the lack of the consultant’s full document, known as the Hay Report, along with the local board’s response, is disconcerting.
It is our hospital, period. It is our taxes that paid for these reports. The community has a right to know the contents – now and not at the whim of the LHIN. We must live with the lack of services or adapt to the changes.
We pay for the system through our taxes and generous donations to the hospital foundation. The authors of the reports or those who approve them at the board table do not contribute in a similar way.
What is more frightening is the lack of opportunity to discuss any of it.
Certainly, there was an opportunity for public input several months ago. But it is the next phase where the community voices need to be heard. This is when the talks get down to brass tacks as the details get hashed out.
The public’s comments must be integrated into the report by the various governing bodies, both locally and by the LHIN, for implementation. Only then, can both sides move forward with a shared vision for the hospital.
By waiting, the LHIN breeds confusion and fear. These actions are indefensible from a community perspective and show a callous disregard for the public. The LHIN is the only beneficiary of these delays.
Local officials are hamstrung. If they leak any information or engage the public, breaking the demands of the LHIN, it would be severely damaging, with possible punitive consequences. This was why Chief Executive Officer Linda Davis withdrew from a scheduled interview with the media last week.
The community should be worried about the plans becoming cast in iron behind the veil of secrecy and delay. The public is left angry and disenfranchised, creating an antagonistic relationship between users and the hospital.
The LHIN can conveniently walk away. The rest of us can’t.