Boil water advisory players caught betwixt and betweet

Put aside the finger pointing for a moment, here’s what really came down the pipe in the aftermath of last week’s boil water advisory.
Neither the city nor Elgin St. Thomas Public Health can keep up with today’s lightning-fast social networking.
If you remember, it was Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman first out of the gate late in the afternoon of Aug. 19 with her tweet advising all followers of the need to boil your drinking water.
This was fully two hours before the general advisory was made public on the city website. That’s because the city and the health unit have not bought into instant communications.

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False alarm on boil water advisory proves public well protected – Elgin St. Thomas Public Health

It’s been a week since the boil water advisory and Elgin St. Thomas Public Health has finally checked in with their post mortem on the course of events.

Monday at city hall, Mayor Cliff Barwick stressed the city notified the health unit at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 19. He went on to note, “Now, at that point, our obligations to notify the health unit had ended. From then on, the ball was in the court of the health unit, and we will do everything we possibly can to assist them.”

In her media release issued today, Aug. 26, Laura McLachlin, director of the health protection department, advises “the health unit is not responsible for notifying users of the drinking water system. That remains the responsibility of the water system operator working for the municipality.”

That is the case, but as Barwick emphatically pointed out at city hall, “And this is perhaps where some improvements in protocol could be made.”

A review of the role of all partners can’t come soon enough.

Here is the full media release from Elgin St. Thomas Public Health

The boil water advisory – the next step for Central Elgin

Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks bristled each time St. Thomas Mayor Cliff Barwick referred to his municipality and Southwold as clients and not neighbours during Monday’s post water advisory media conference. Water wasn’t the only thing boiling during the 24 hours the advisory was in effect. Marks joins Barwick in calling for a review of procedures, most especially communication, in the wake of the largest boil water advisory ever issued in the area. Here are comments from Marks release on Aug. 25 Boil Water Advisory The Next Step

Lessons learned from the boil water advisory in St. Thomas, a full transcipt of Mayor Cliff Barwick’s message

Here is the full transcript of Mayor Cliff Barwick’s press conference Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 at city hall in response to the boil water advisory issued Aug. 19 and lifted the following evening. Barwick opened by explaining why a state of emergency wasn’t declared and instead a low-risk advisory was issued.

A state of emergency activates a controlled group of a number of people, and brings together in the community a number of resources. These resources include fire, police, ambulance, social services, certain other social agencies, other groups and of course there is automatically put in place a phone protocol.

In this particular situation, this is the first time in the history of the City of St. Thomas where we did not have a state of emergency but we had something that affected the city in a city-wide sense.

The state of emergency – at no time did I receive any advice from the administration, from the emergency measures officer, from the health unit or the medical officer of health to declare a state of emergency. I certainly would not to that on my own. I would only act upon that type of advice.
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Redistribution of mental health beds in London and St. Thomas being implemented prior to public input

Posted from the OPSEU blog:
opseudiablogue | August 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Categories: Health System | URL:

A significant redistribution of mental health beds throughout Southwestern Ontario is taking place without any decision-making process by the four Local Health Integration Networks that are supposed to be guiding services in this part of the province.

The Ombudsman’s office recently issued a report suggesting public consultation was little more than “LHIN spin” in Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant. In the case of Southwestern Ontario, there has been no public consultation at all.

Prompted by the redevelopment of Regional Mental Health Care – London (RMHC-L), the plan will reduce the number of beds in London and St. Thomas to about half of present complement.
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Ombudsman’s report shows LHIN uninterested in results of hospital’s public consultation

opseudiablogue | August 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Categories: Local Health Integration Networks | URL:

One of the key issues raised in the Ombudsman’s recent report, “The LHIN Spin” is how public consultation is dealt with.

With voluntary integrations (for example a hospital initiated change to service), there is no requirement for the LHIN to consult the public if it agrees with the integration proposal. However, there is a requirement on the part of the health service provider to do so.

The Ombudsman reports that “while LHIN officials acknowledged that they do have a role in ensuring that a health service provider conducts stakeholder outreach, they stated that they relied on and trusted the information provided by Hamilton Health Sciences concerning its efforts to obtain public input.”

However, in the case of Hamilton Health Sciences, the LHIN did not even request any of the results of that consultation.

In theory, the community could be uniformly opposed to a decision, offer good alternate proposals, and none of this would ever inform the LHIN when they made their final decision. Such disregard for the content of these consultations suggest the LHIN was not interested in what the community had to say, only in the fact that it was consulted and legal obligations were met.

In the case of Hamilton Health Sciences, when the Hamilton Spectator contacted the hospital to ask about results from their consultation, HHS said the results were recorded in the form of “personal and mental notes” and been the subject of “debriefing conversations.” In other words, consultations were held, but nothing was really recorded for review by the LHIN or others.

Further, in the case of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN, the board was told not to attend health service provider consultations sessions to hear for themselves what the public had to say.

A hospital has every incentive to filter what they have heard in order to support the proposal they are bringing to the LHIN. If neither staff nor board from the LHIN is attending these sessions, and if no real documentation is made of concerns raised at these meetings, the LHIN will have no idea if the hospital’s representation of those comments was fair

In the case of Hamilton Health Sciences, it was clear they didn’t even care.

The Ombudsman makes a recommendation that “adequate records of community outreach should also be kept and made available to ensure that stakeholder views are accurately represented.”

LHINs do not permit deputations to its board meetings. Given the community cannot rely on the self-interest of health care providers to accurately reflect their view back to the LHIN, they should have the opportunity to do it themselves.

CAW Calls for Government Intervention after Fruitless Meeting with Navistar

WINDSOR and TORONTO, Aug. 19 /CNW/ – The CAW is calling for the Ontario government to intervene in the more than year-long stand-off between the union and heavy truck manufacturer Navistar Corporation, after talks today failed to make any progress.

The CAW called the meeting with Navistar in an attempt to resolve the temporary closure of the plant and explore ways to maximize production at the facility, but the discussions failed to produce any resolutions.

The company did not provide any plans for the future of the facility but has pledged to provide a detailed and formal response within two weeks.

“Navistar Corporation has to understand that to manage change in a workplace it must be done in conjunction with the workers. Those who are affected by these changes must be treated with respect and dignity,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza, following the meeting.

“It is unconscionable that this corporation is allowed to send the historic production, supported by Ontario and Canadian tax dollars, to a foreign country like Mexico. The meeting today and all the meetings to this point have been extremely frustrating and now we will wait for the corporation’s response within the next two weeks.”

“This situation cannot be resolved through collective bargaining and requires significant intervention by the government.”

Navistar temporarily closed the facility in June 2009, laying off its entire workforce after a breakdown in negotiations between the two sides.

The company’s latest proposal includes reducing the workforce down to fewer than 100 people and with historic assembly work performed at the plant outsourced to Mexico. The collective agreement expired on June 30, 2009.

For further information: CAW Local 127 President Aaron Neaves, 519-350-1031; Chairpersons Cathy Wiebenga, 519-436-5184 and Sonny Galea, 519-809-2240

What we have here is a failure to communicate

It was determined late Friday the boil water advisory, issued Thursday evening, was actually a false reading — the result of contamination at a lab in London — but it flushed out weaknesses in the city’s communication strategies.

Four hours may not seem like an excessive amount of time, but when you’re dealing with the potential of an E. coli outbreak, it might as well be an eternity.

City engineering staff knew about the suspect water sample at around 3:40 p.m. on Thursday, however the first notice went up on the city website at 7:40 p.m., when Elgin St. Thomas Public Health released details of the boil water advisory.
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The boil water advisory for St. Thomas, Central Elgin and Southwold rescinded

The water advisory was issued Thursday evening and was expected to remain in effect for at least 48 hours as the result of e. coli and coliform bacteria levels above maximum standards found in water samples. However it was determined late Friday the reading was false as confirmed by an email from the SGS lab in London.

Here is the full release of the now rescinded advisory Boil_Water_Advisory(final)