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IMPACT: Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition aims to fight changes to Lindsay hospital act

Posted: March 11, 2020

(March 10, 2020)

By: Catherine Whitnall,  Kawartha Lakes This Week

The Ross Memorial Hospital is actively seeking former patients, and family members of patients, to serve as Patient Experience Partners (PEPs) to help inform ongoing care. – File photo

Dozens of area residents have thrown their support behind the Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition’s efforts to stop new legislation it believes will negatively impact the future of the Ross Memorial Hospital.

Roughly 300 people attended a special event hosted by the coalition Thursday (March 5) to hear about a private bill amendment to the special act of legislation that incorporated the hospital back in 1903, and which was amended in 1954, 1964 and 2000 to respond to the ever-changing nature of health care.

According to the coalition, the proposed legislation would — if passed by Queen’s Park — wipe out all community memberships in the hospital and enable the hospital board to appoint itself, change the goals of the hospital so it no longer has to run a hospital, wipe out existing hospital laws and change the rules so that, if the hospital wishes to close or merge, it would no longer require legislative permission and public vote.

“This trend of eliminating community members and having boards elect their own members is growing at hospitals across the province,” says Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra. “We have spent the last 20 years fighting to retain community hospitals and services … The hospital has the powers it needs. There’s no sense to have a big upheaval over a bill nobody needs or wants.”

Ross Memorial interim CEO Veronica Nelson counters that this isn’t the case. The bill will “enable flexibility on how we provide care, to modernize references and to update the governance model to reflect a skills-based board.”

Nelson went on to explain the proposed closed, skills-based board model is used in the majority of Ontario hospitals, including other medium-sized community hospitals, and is recognized as a best practice by the Ontario Hospital Association.

She says a review of bylaw amendments, including the transition to a skills-based board, was presented at the hospital’s public 2012 Annual General Meeting. Members voted in favour and the changes were implemented.

Nelson notes the hospital regularly involves the patients, families and community members in governance, decision-making and planning, notwithstanding that the board and its committees are community members but the public can attend open board meetings as well as the hospital’s annual general meeting.

The hospital also welcomes public input.

“Many of our quality improvement initiatives and service enhancements have come from recommendations from patients and families,” says Nelson. “For example, we recently made enhancements to our operating room after receiving insightful patient feedback through our Quality and Patient Experience office.”

The bill was introduced by MPP Christine Hogarth on Feb. 27 and referred to the Commissioners of Estate Bills. After following legislative process and receiving Royal Assent, it will become the Ross Memorial Hospital Act, 2020. The hospital is then obligated to follow the requirements of the Act along with other relevant acts including, but not limited to, the Public Hospitals Act, Connecting Care Act and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Coalition members hope to stop the bill from getting any further.

“We only have a matter of weeks to stop it,” says Mehra.

Zac Miller and Bonnie Kennedy, co-chairs of the Kawartha Lakes group, are in the process of co-ordinating transportation to Queen’s Park to speak against the bill. They encourage anyone interested in participating to email kawarthalakeshealthcoalition@gmail.com.

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