Deb Matthews determined (to do some damage to small Ontario hospitals)

Deb Matthews is staunchly defending the decision to close the emergency rooms in Fort Erie and Port Colborne despite the sharp critique of the LHINs (illegal) consultation process by Andre Marin, the Ontario Ombudsman. 

Matthews told Niagara area papers "We're not revisiting that decision. The decision remains the right decision...we're absolutely not going to be reopening that decision."  Obligingly, the LHIN chairwoman Juanita Gledhill said her board doesn't plan to revisit its earlier decisions either.  Big surprise.

This does not bode well for other smaller hospitals.  Even in the face of months of community outrage, calls from the opposition parties, and an Ombudsman's report suggesting a phony consultation process, Matthews will not even consider a review of the decision to close the small hospital ERs.

Now there's a government official determined to do some damage.

So it is interesting to hear that  Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey says "I would consider a judicial review (of LHIN decisions). The process is flawed and it should be stopped." Marin, the Ombudman, also raised this possibility. 

Pat Scholfield of the People's Healthcare Coalition of Port Colborne stated "We consider the HIP (Hospital Improvement Plan) was foisted on us without proper process.  Now is the time for the government to do an investigation into the NHS." For her part, Sue Salzer of the Fort Erie Yellow Shirt Brigade is happy to list some of her "favourite" words Marin used in his report" "Hanky panky, sneaky, illegal, cherry-picked ."

Of  course, Matthews is promising to improve the LHIN consultation process. (As indeed she might. Her boss Dalton McGuinty said the LHINs need firmer government guidance: "we've got to make sure that we provide appropriate guidelines". See the Toronto Star article on this story.)

I doubt this will amount to much.  Franker comments  may be from the (outgoing) Champlain LHIN CEO, Dr. Robert Cushman:

Cushman said sometimes things need to be done privately before public consumption. Being asked to prepare for a number of budget scenarios by the Ministry of Health, for example, could mean anything from the status quo to reductions of staff and services if there is a 0% increase in funds. Going to the public before it's known which one the ministry will approve can cause unnecessary anger and outcry. "When you make tough decisions to close down two emergency rooms, there are going to be some unhappy people and they're going to be vocal."

When the Liberals started the LHINs, they promised better consultations. And indeed the boss of the South West LHIN, Mike Barrett still defends the LHIN consultations, even after Marin's report: 

Barrett said he's disappointed Marin and others have failed to recognize the progress made by the LHINs in handling decisions in the open that used to be made by bureaucrats behind closed doors in Toronto. "Now, all of our decisions are made in an open and transparent fashion. This is the way decisions should be made," said Barrett.

 So, I'm betting Cushman's comments will prove a better guide than Matthews'. 

Of the LHINs, Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition added: "It will be an election issue.  I think that it is the hot-button issue in many, many communities, including Liberal ridings where local hospitals are facing major service cuts."

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