KAWARTHA LAKES-The Ross Memorial Hospital recently applied for special legislation to change the name of the hospital corporation and to change its objects, its powers, the composition of its board and its membership structure and today those changes passed despite objections from local health coalitions and the public.
“Despite overwhelming support in our community against this Bill, Laurie Scott rammed this through at the last possible minute that eliminates public oversight of the Board and jeopardizes acute care services and surgeries at Ross Memorial Hospital.” said Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition Co-Chair Zac Miller upon hearing the amendments had passed. “Make no mistake, the language of the Bill is clear, and Laurie Scott and the Board at RMH know exactly what it means which is why they rammed it through without announcing it to the public. They tried to hide it and were not transparent at all. Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition knows that the RMH Board postponed the merger with PRHC because of the public outcry and this Bill makes it that much easier for acute care services and jobs to leave Lindsay. We are very concerned with the future of services at RMH.”
“We are deeply invested in doing what’s right for patients and families. Our steadfast commitment has been demonstrated over the past two-plus years of the pandemic. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ross Memorial Hospital is dedicated to providing vital acute care services to our community.” Kelly Isfan, President and CEO of Ross Memorial Hospital said in a written statement today.
The Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition and the Ontario Health Coalition opposed changes to the act saying it left the hospital open to amalgamation and a reduction of services.
“I’m particularly concerned because when we first met with the hospital they said this is just housekeeping, modernizing the language. It is not housekeeping, it fundamentally changes the act. It changes everything. said Natalie Mehra, Ontario Health Coalition in an emergency zoom meeting held on Tuesday night.
“As health care in Ontario continues to evolve, it was necessary to amend the Special Act again so that it is consistent with language used by public hospitals across Ontario.” states Isfan in a press release. “The majority of Ontario hospital boards operate under modern and effective skills-based membership models. No matter the size or location of a hospital, this type of board is commonly accepted as best practice and is in-line with best practice guidelines set out by the Ontario Hospital Association. Hospital boards have a duty to implement structures that support the board’s legal roles and responsibilities, while safeguarding against special interest influence or conflict of interest. Good governance is grounded in a commitment to the mission and fulfilling the corporations’ accountabilities, while also serving the needs of stakeholders.” said Isfan
It appears that this new act does eliminate more than 700 community members from the board, which was one of the main concerns raised by the coalitions but Isfan says there will continue to be community involvement.
“Ross Memorial Hospital’s Board of Governors includes 12 independent, voting community members, and this structure will continue under the new Special Act. Patient and family involvement in decision-making is very important to us. We include patient, family and community member advisory roles on Board Committees and will continue to do so. Community members are still invited and welcomed to attend future Annual General Meetings. The hospital will also continue issuing its Annual Report to the community in June, as per usual.”
On Tuesday Miller expressed concern with the original wording under the proposal below:
“The object of the corporation are:
(a)to establish, equip, staff, maintain, operate, conduct and manage a hospital OR health facilities with programs and services that MAY include, without limitation,
(i) active treatment programs and services,
(ii) programs and services for chronic care, complex continuing care or community health,”
Zac Miller, KLHC says the fact that this wording does not include a provision for acute inpatient care services and it uses wording such as MAY and OR is very concerning.
“This means they could choose to run a hospital OR health facilities,” Miller explains.
Isfan says there is no language in the Special Act that contemplates the hospital closing or turning into a non-acute care facility and it appears the wording has been changed.
“Regardless, the Ministry of Health has processes to determine if any change in services proposed by an Ontario hospital are in the public interest. As our community continues to grow, the need for acute care services is evident to anyone in the City of Kawartha Lakes.”
The wording of the act passed today says:
“The objects of the Corporation are,
(a) to establish, equip, staff, maintain, operate, conduct and manage a hospital AND health facilities with programs and services that may include, without limitation,
(i) active treatment programs and services,
(ii) programs and services for chronic care, complex continuing care or community health,
(iii) emergency services,
(iv) out-patient services,
(v) rehabilitation services, and
(vi) therapy services;”
The third issue raised by the Health Coalition is the proposed amendments would allow the hospital to make changes to the act in the future without going back through the legislative process. It appears that is now the case.
“Ross Memorial Hospital was incorporated by a Special Act of the Ontario legislature in 1903, as a result of a gift from James Ross to create the hospital. One of the implications of incorporation by a Special Act is the hospital needs to return to the Ontario legislature every time an amendment is required. This is a time consuming and cumbersome process. RMH has had to amend its Special Act three times for various reasons – in 1954, 1964 and 2000″ said Isfan.
“The Corporation may enact by-laws governing its activities and affairs, including, without limitation, by-laws governing Board size and composition and the term of office of directors.” says the new act.