Some provisions in the act have worried the board of directors of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre enough that it proposes to change the status of the hospital to a closed corporation and drop public memberships entirely.

According to Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), the impending law will, among other things, give non-profit members greater access to financial records and “the ability to take action if they believe directors are not acting in the best interests of the corporation.”

On the surface this seems reasonable but our hospital board, on the advice of governance experts with the Ontario Hospital Association, is quick to point out the potential for abuse of these new powers by renegade public members: “Under certain circumstances, the new act will allow special interest groups or even classes of members to have veto powers over the board that could remove directors, expand board size or even change by-laws . . .”

Heaven forbid that members with some extreme agenda or quack medical notion try to stack the board and interfere with hospital priorities and procedures. On the other hand, eliminating membership altogether places another thin wedge between the institution and community accountability.

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre says anyone who wants to speak on this and other by-law amendments can do so at the hospital’s annual general meeting at 5:30 p.m. tonight in the Health Sciences Centre’s auditorium A/B (third level).

Should the board go ahead with the changes and end public membership, the Coalition would request that the directors think hard about a substitute forum or process that will add a more general public voice to the balance of representatives currently ensconced in its carefully-guarded ranks.

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