A prescription for accountability

TheStar.com – comment/letters – A prescription for accountability
June 25, 2008

Re: Hardly anything more open to scrutiny than a hospital – Comment, June 23

Ontario Hospital Association president Tom Closson says our health-care facilities are already accountable, transparent and well down the road to improving patient safety. Ontario’s front-line registered nurses would beg to differ.

Contrary to Closson’s assertions, the Ontario Nurses’ Association has had to fight for every improvement to occupational health and safety in hospitals. It took years of lobbying with other unions before safety-engineered sharps, designed to prevent unnecessary needlestick injuries, were finally made mandatory, though not until this fall.

We continue to lobby for measures to prevent the high rates of violence that occur in hospitals. Far from being open and accountable, our experience at many hospitals has been that management downplays or sweeps aside serious safety concerns.

There are so many issues facing front-line workers – and therefore patients – in Ontario hospitals, but the response in many cases seems to be to deny they exist.

Ask any front-line health-care worker if hospitals are already accountable in any way that is meaningful to them, and the answer will likely be a resounding “no.”

Linda Haslam-Stroud, President, Ontario Nurses’ Association, Toronto

I am incensed that you would publish such self-serving drivel by Tom Closson, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association. Every other province in Canada allows its ombudsman to oversee hospitals, so that the little guy without the right connections can be heard and helped. Are they all wrong and is Ontario right?

It’s time for the Ontario government to come out of the Dark Ages and hold hospitals accountable for their often unilateral, high-handed decisions and cover-ups.

Sandi Sabloff, Toronto

Tom Closson states that giving Ontario’s ombudsman the authority to investigate hospital complaints is a duplication of effort. If I send a complaint to him, will he investigate? If so, will anything change? Will anyone be held accountable?

Giving the ombudsman the power to investigate complaints is tantamount to improving health care in Ontario. We need someone who has the authority to institute change by exposing problems as they occur.

Without being advised of what is wrong in the system, how can things truly change for the better?

Bev McDowell, Cambridge, Ont.

Rx: A strong dose of privatization – Comment, June 21

Like any good doctor, Liberal MP Keith Martin should have read the evidence before prescribing a parallel private system for Canadian health care. Waiting lists are caused by complex factors, including temporary mismatches in supply and demand, poor planning and staffing shortages. A two-tier system would not solve these problems.

Canada has one of the lowest rates of physicians per population in the developed world. We do not even have enough physicians and nurses to properly staff a public system, let alone an additional private tier of health care. Evidence from Australia, where the government subsidizes the private insurance system, suggests that public-sector waiting lists would probably increase as nurses and doctors moved to the private system.

Rather than ignoring the valuable research done by the Romanow Commission, which concluded a two-tier system would not solve our problems, we need to accelerate the pace of change within medicare with more innovative projects in collaborative care and queue management. Not only will they make medicare more cost-effective and help ensure sustainability, they will also ensure that all Canadians can take advantage of new technologies and improved access.

Suggesting that we should privatize more of Canadian health care because 30 per cent is already privatized is a leap of logic that most Canadians won’t want to take.

Dr. Danielle Martin, Toronto

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