Wrong time and place for Ald. Yusuf to editorialize


While his message of outrage and disgust may have been well aimed, Ald. Sam Yusuf’s diatribe on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was totally out of place Monday in the council chamber.
The complex Gaza turmoil is far outside the realm of council’s mandate and to take this time to editorialize in front of a large group of army cadets shows poor judgment on the part of Yusuf.
He would do well to channel his energy into municipal matters like attending hospital board meetings, from which he has been missing in action for months.
It is no secret he does not intend to seek re-election. Put the last two years of this term to good use. Represent the interests of constituents who voted for you – and those who didn’t.
After all, Ald. Yusuf, you were not elected to office to broker Middle East peace.

A week ago in this corner, we engaged in dialogue with St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Paul Collins following announcement the facility had been recognized for its efforts in trimming ER wait times which you can read here.
We pick up the conversation this week with an explanation from Collins on the rapid assessment zone (RAZ) and its role in the ER which will further help clarify wait times.
“We’ll have people who come in,” explains Collins, detailing visits to the ER from individuals who will undergo assessment, treatment and then be released, “and rather than clogging up the emergency department specifically, they go this rapid assessment zone where they can get a quick assessment and then they are released.
“Generally, these are patients who are not admitted. So, one of the problems we experience is in how people experience this. If you are someone who wouldn’t be appropriate in going to the RAZ because your situation is a little more concerning, then you may be in the waiting room waiting to get into emergency proper while you see someone come into emergency who may not look very serious but they are taken in the other way (through RAZ) right away.”
It can result in the perception those with less of an issue are getting attended to faster, Collins points out.
“In the end,” Collins continues, “it keeps those folks out of emergency proper and clogging it up even further. We certainly have had people comment on that. In the moment, in can be pretty disconcerting.”
In other words, movement through ER is not a care of first in, first out.
“The RAZ has certainly helped ensure the waiting room is not clogging up and folks are getting seen relatively quickly and on their way. In most cases the issues they come in with are not that complicated.”
As he is acutely aware, there will always be grumbling about wait times, however Collins and his front-line staff are putting time and thought into making life in the ER more bearable.
They’ve got the recognition from their peers to back that up.

One of the charges laid by the RCMP this week against London Mayor Joe Fontana is breach of trust by a public official, in relation to a cheque issued as a deposit on a wedding reception.
Here in St. Thomas, Ald. Tom Johnston received Detroit Red Wings’ season tickets valued at a similar amount as compensation for serving as board chairman of St. Thomas Energy/Ascent, in direct contravention of a city bylaw prohibiting remuneration of any sort.
Is that not a breach of trust by a public official who continues to sit and vote on city business?
Ald. Johnston has so far refused to publicly acknowledge this under-the-table compensation he orchestrated with former Ascent CEO Brian Hollywood.
Likewise, he has steadfastly refused to pay back the monetary value of the tickets.
As frustrating as that is, equally baffling is the fact no member of council has challenged Johnston in open session to account for this transgression and have him commit to a repayment schedule.
Who exactly is looking out for city ratepayers here?
Or as one T-J reader, chubby 7880, succinctly posted on our website: “City council members and the Mayor should keep in mind – tick the people of St. Thomas off … you only get 1 term. We voted you IN!!!…. we can vote you OUT!!!!!”

A month ago, we speculated on the appearance of a toxic atmosphere in the environmental services department at city hall, similar to the cancerous environment nine years ago in the treasury department involving harassment of staff.
Is that the root cause behind the departure last month of operations and compliance manager Edward Soldo for greener pastures in London as director of roads and transportation?
That’s the loss of another huge city asset and if it was prompted by a philosophical clash in the bowels of city hall, then we definitely are regressing back in time.

“(The bus) is picking the individual up two hours or three hours before their actual appointment and dropping them off so that poor individual is left sitting three hours in a doctor’s office waiting for their appointment so there’s something wrong, there’s something wrong here right now in the present system.”
Ald. Dave Warden on deficiencies in the city’s paratransit system that are again dogging city council and staff.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

What right does Ald. Johnston have to judge others?


The folks up in London have the Joe Fontana fiasco to live with while we are saddled with the Tom Johnston tango – a two-step marrying entitlement with denial.
To recap, Johnston received compensation as St. Thomas Energy/Ascent board chairman in the form of Detroit Red Wing season tickets over a three-year period, in clear violation of a city policy prohibiting such remuneration.

Johnston has neither fessed up in public to the under-the-table palm greasing nor has he offered to pay back the value of the hockey ducats.
All of which prompted a scathing letter to the editor from reader Bill Sandison which questions the role of mayor and council in all of this.

“Any reasonable mayor might have asked the RCMP to investigate, but instead Mayor Heather Jackson takes comfort that ‘It’s stopped and it absolutely will not happen again . . . Now you need to repay this, you need to make amends and admit you made a mistake.’”
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More questions than answers as hospital puts out hand


Monday night’s presentation to council from the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital Foundation provided little in the way of insight and generated a gurney load of troubling questions.
 For instance, isn’t a partnership a two-way street?
 So, if the hospital wants the city and county to each write cheques in the amount of $4.5 million, then it should be open to financial disclosure. Let’s see some accounting.
 After all, a partnership is more than just cutting a cheque.
 Who is determining the final amount to be raised and the term of payment?
 Let’s see the documentation from the province to the hospital to validate this.
 Has anyone at city hall seen paperwork on what is required at the municipal level?
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Questions need to be asked about hospital’s $13 million ask


The redevelopment undertaking at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital was re-scoped earlier this year by the Dalton McGuinty government. However the hospital doesn’t appear to have re-scoped its financial expectations from the city/county/ratepayers.
The original capital redevelopment project came with a price tag estimated at $106 million, with a local commitment of 10% or roughly $11 million (although the hospital was seeking $13 million from the city/county/community).
The hospital board of governors has acknowledged – via a letter dated April 4, 2012 from board chairman Bruce Babcock to health minister Deb Matthews – the project cost has been reduced to $45 million.
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