Ontario Health Coalition criticizes roundtable report as ‘biased,’ ‘patently untrue’
Posted: February 14, 2020
(February 13, 2020)
By: Michael Lee, North Bay Nugget
The Ontario Health Coalition is disputing the findings in the report from Mayor Al McDonald’s roundtable on mental health, addiction and poverty which support the transfer of funding from the hospital to a new transitional housing centre expected to open this summer.
A response posted to the Ontario Health Coalition’s website Monday says it is not clear who made the decision to move the funding.
A small working group called the action team, created following McDonald’s roundtable meeting last fall, authored a report with suggestions on how to address mental health, addiction and poverty in the city, including the creation of a Transitional Housing Stabilization Centre which would serve as a single access point for clients.
In order to pay for community withdrawal management services, as well as day and evening addiction programs at the centre, the action team proposed shifting $1.2 million from the North Bay Regional Health Centre, a decision the Canadian Union of Public Employees has warned would close 29 residential addiction treatment beds.
Another two safe beds, which are made available to clients for up to 30 days by referral from police or mobile crisis services, at the hospital also will move to the centre as part of a $415,000 funding transfer.
“The process is unacceptable and we are calling on (Nipissing) MPP Vic Fedeli and the minister of health to intervene and stop these cuts before more than half of the existing residential addiction treatment beds in North Bay and the (northeast) region are closed down along with the hospital crisis beds despite clear evidence that there are people already on wait lists for the residential programs and the crisis beds are running at more than 100 per cent occupancy,” the post from the coalition states.
In a statement, Fedeli said the plan was developed locally by the mayor’s roundtable, including 29 health experts who put their best-case scenario forward for the community.
“We would expect all our health-care professionals to work together in the best interest of those in need of mental health and addictions services,” he said.
“Our government is delivering real action by investing a historic $3.8 billion over the next 10 years to build a comprehensive, integrated and connected mental health and addictions system.”
The Nugget requested a comment from Health Minister Christine Elliott earlier in the week about whether more funding would be provided to offer additional programming at the centre as proposed by the action team.
Instead, ministry spokesperson David Jensen provided a statement highlighting the province’s additional $174 million announced last year for community-based mental health and addictions services, including $1.3 million more this year for North Bay, and the launch of a new Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence within Ontario Health.
“The government will continue to work to ensure that all Ontarians are truly supported on their journey toward mental wellness,” the statement said.
In its response, the coalition questioned whether any conflicts of interests exist from cutting funding at the hospital and shifting it to other agencies, and how a “hand-picked group” could make funding decisions to cut major programs.
“What protections against ’empire building’ by some at the expense of others, and particularly at the expense of increased risk for patients, were included in the process? It appears none,” the response said.
The coalition also criticizes the use of “buzz words” in the report and claims it is “biased and even patently untrue” when laying out the core rationale for its approach.
In particular, the coalition takes issue with the roundtable’s reliance on a separate report from Dr. Brian Rush of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, who found that withdrawal management services and day and evening addiction programs lacked capacity in Nipissing district, while residential treatment beds and medical withdrawal management services were at over-capacity.
The group goes on by saying the information provided is incomplete, while evidence suggests there should be more hospital-administered crisis beds.
“There is no assessment of these beds, need, or any other evidence in the roundtable report. By cutting them from the hospital and funding only beds in the so-called community hub, a vital part of the continuum of care at the hospital has been removed.”