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Changes to RMH endangers hospitals’ future says OHC: ‘We have to stop this legislation’

Posted: March 7, 2020

(March 6, 2020)

By:  Joli Scheidler-Benns, The Lindsay Advocate

Hundreds of people gathered at a town hall-style meeting last night at the Lindsay Recreation Centre determined to stop Ross Memorial Hospital from becoming anything other than a hospital.

That is, they want RMH’s status as a hospital to remain and not morph into an entity that simply provides “health services” – a danger it may face if proposed special legislation is allowed to pass, according to the Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition and the Ontario Health Coalition.

Really, it all comes down to a single word. That word is “or” versus “and.”

The wording of the purpose of the hospital in the proposed special act is where the issue lies.

According to Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition’s co-chair, Zac Miller, “Section 3 of this special act changes the objects of the hospital. RMH lawyers have chosen to insert the word “or” rather than “and” in this clause. This means that the board can operate a hospital or a different type of health facility which effectively means they no longer have to run a hospital.”

It’s the KLHC’s belief that “or” should be removed and amended to require the board to run a hospital.

The large crowd of concerned community members showed their unanimous support for stopping this new legislation, known as private bill 21, which was submitted on Feb. 27. It’s a bill that, according to the KLHC, would:

  1. Wipe out community memberships and create a self-appointing board of directors.
  2. Change the goals of the hospital so it no longer has to run as a hospital
  3. Wipe out existing laws from 1903 that allowed for community input in the direction as a hospital
  4. Allow mergers or even to be closed with no public vote

As earlier reported in the Advocate, when asked about this wording and if people should be concerned, interim RMH CEO, Veronica Nelson replied, “The language in the proposed special act enables flexibility for the hospital to enhance or expand services without opening another corporation. If the hospital changed the word ‘or’ to ‘and’ it would be required to also operate ‘a different type of health facility’ in addition to the hospital; this is not practicable nor an effective use of public resources

Nelson also notes that when the hospital was founded under the special act in 1903, the health system was much simpler.

Now, “Ontarians receive care from many health service providers and hospitals are only one part of it. The 1903 language limits the hospital’s ability to adapt to new care models as our healthcare environment changes, including the introduction of Ontario Health Teams.”

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, came to the Lindsay meeting. She told the assembled crowd that it’s their best interests to fight the change.

“We have time to stop this legislation.”

Simon Archer, the lawyer for KLHC from Goldblatt Partners, agreed with Mehra.

Archer says “wording that RMH considers housekeeping is actually a fundamental change.”

“It obscures that meaning and leaves a lot up to interpretation,” he says.

Ross Memorial Hospital was a gift to the community in 1903 from James L Ross. Ross, a successful railway engineer and philanthropist, had lived briefly in Lindsay and covered the entire cost of the hospital’s construction on the condition that “the County maintain the facility as it would not only be a memorial to his parents, but also a gift to the community he had once called home.”

The hospital was founded on a “special act” that included community members having a say in the direction of the hospital.

Without community members as members of the hospital and the move to a self-appointed board, this could completely eliminate the public’s voice, according to Archer, which was not part of the vision of the original gift of our hospital.

Archer explains that if this bill is passed then the “original vision and intent is lost.”

As a not-for-profit entity, Archer believes RHM should continue to allow memberships, noting most non-profits do.

Miller says “we are running out of time to stop this legislation.” He says even if the current board has no intention of changing anything, it leaves things open for the future.

The co-chair of KLHC says who knows what will happen in five years or ten years down the road because once the wording is changed “anything can happen.”

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