“It’s not only a struggle, it’s degrading.”
After little more than an hour wrestling with a wheelchair and peering through vision-impairing glasses, Ald. David Warden declared it’s time for the city to “put a concentrated effort into addressing accessibility issues.”
Several months prior to the 2006 municipal election, City Scope teamed up with accessibility advocate Ed McLachlan to challenge members of council and mayoral/aldermanic candidates to experience frustrations encountered by city residents dealing with accessibility issues in their daily routine.
Warden was joined by council hopeful Carol Van Rooy and the pair warily agreed to proceed from the city hall parking lot to the public library then return to city hall.
If you flash back to this space seven days ago, we noted how the dynamics of the 2010 municipal election campaign took on a new urgency with the return of former mayor Jeff Kohler to the political stage.
That observation was not lost on Carole Watson, the former chairman of the St. Thomas Police Services board, who reminds us police, fire and ambulance services are some of the most important components of this community’s infrastructure.
“Our citizens expect, and often take for granted, a paramedic, firefighter and police officer will be there to respond if and when we need them, at a moment’s notice, day or night, 24/7, 365 days a year,” she writes.
She notes in recent years city council had the foresight to update and expand the facilities of the fire department and ambulance service with new substations in the city’s north end.
If you attended the Chamber of Commerce Business After 5 soiree Wednesday, you couldn’t miss council members and mayoral/aldermanic hopefuls working the crowd in grand fashion.
There’s no mistaking the 2010 municipal election campaign, like the backyard barbie, is starting to warm up nicely.
Marvelous how the dynamics have taken on a new intensity with Jeff Kohler’s announcement this week he is seeking a return to council as one of seven aldermen.
Let’s do a little gazing into the City Scope crystal ball.
As we noted in this space last week, Ald. Dave Warden intends to throw the spotlight on Ald. Bill Aarts when council next meets on July 19 so that the chairman of the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health board of directors can bring all of us up to speed on the comings and goings at 99 Edward St.
Ald. Warden informed City Scope he wanted to thoroughly research details of ESTPH’s lease arrangement with Elgin county, along with other areas of concern, before engaging Aarts in any dialogue.
Ever diligent, this corner has already undertaken that research, which we presented on June 12, and in the meantime had a face-to-face with CEO Cynthia St. John and presented her take on office space, her increase in salary, staff cutbacks and office morale of late.
OPSEU has written to Health Minister Deb Matthews over the reduction in mental health beds proposed for London’s Regional Health Centre (St. Joseph’s Health Care).
The aging facility is being replaced by two public-private partnerships (P3s) in London and St. Thomas which will offer far fewer beds. The plan also calls for 50 beds to be transferred to Cambridge this fall and another 59 beds to Windsor next year. The new P3 facilities are scheduled to open in 2015 with a 156-bed London Parkwood site and an 89-bed forensic unit in St. Thomas. London and St. Thomas presently have 450 beds.
While the new London hospital will have the ability to add on 12 more beds, there are about 80 fewer beds in the scheme. The province has already reduced the number of mental health beds to below per capita levels recommended by the Health Restructuring Commission.
While the hospital has given OPSEU an outline of the bed changes, no detailed plan has yet to be released to the public.
The union is concerned that given this represents an integration decision by the South West Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN), that families, patients, staff and other stakeholders be given an opportunity to provide input on the plan.
This also represents another region of the province where mental health beds from one community are being taken to address the needs of another. In North Bay OPSEU is fighting to retain 31 mental health beds that will transfer to Sudbury when the North East Mental Health Centre moves into its new P3 facility.
“We ask that if additional mental health beds are needed in communities such as Sudbury, Cambridge and Windsor, that new funding be granted to meet these needs,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas wrote in the letter.
The union is also calling on a moratorium on further cuts to mental health beds given most mental health centres are at or near capacity.
Cynthia St. John
On June 28, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health CEO Cynthia St. John met with City Scope to shed light on issues raised over the past several months, including staff cutbacks, her salary increase in 2009 of approx. $25,000 and the status of the organization’s current leasing arrangement with the County of Elgin for their office space at 99 Edward St. in St. Thomas
Also present was John Matsui of Makin’ Headlines, the London, Ont. public releations firm recently hired by ESTPH.
What follows is an expanded version of the interview that appeared in City Scope on July 3. We have not included incidental and background comments from John.
We start with Cynthia’s opening preamble.
CYNTHIA: I’m certainly committed to be as open and honest as I can be. Part of the challenge is matters of property, personnel and labour relations are closed-session board items and so it becomes a challenge in how you talk about them. Hopefully today we are able to have a conversation and share as much information as we can with each other. If there is something I’m not saying it’s because of that. It’s nothing to do with anything else.
Deep-rooted concerns about her ability to adhere to privacy guidelines have proven a challenge to Elgin St. Thomas Public Health CEO Cynthia St. John in dealing with City Scope on matters of property, personnel and labour relations.
Her steadfast gatekeeper approach to preserving confidentiality is in contrast to other healthcare institutions, such as Elgin-St. Thomas General Hospital, which have been decidedly more forthcoming with the media when dealing with staff cutbacks and restructuring.
In an effort to open up the channels of communication, St. John and newly-hired PR guru John Matsui
agreed to sit down with City Scope earlier this week.
“I’m certainly committed to be as open and honest as I can be,” said St. John, to kick off the dialogue.