Hospital junkets open up wider health care debate


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Leading the way toward a lean, efficient and effective operating program versus ripping taxpayers off with over-valued, over-billed opinions of what’s good for the hospital.
That’s the debate that has raged on the Times-Journal website and Facebook page in the aftermath of our revelation last week of the overseas jaunt to Singapore by four St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital executives.
In the week since, we’ve learned of other trips to the U.K. and Wisconsin and rumors of possible convention junkets to Florida and Las Vegas that are now being checked.
News of the fact-finding mission to Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds in the U.K. by CEO Paul Collins and chief of staff Nancy Whitmore comes on the heels of a revealing T-J editorial penned by John Robson entitled, “To see the future of Canadian health care, look to the U.K.”
Robson paints a picture of a health care system in shambles with the collapse of the National Health Service on which ours is modelled.

Costs are out of control, warns Robson, hospitals are shuffling patients about to meet politically imposed “efficiency” targets and patients are “dying from neglect in hospitals.”
In one particularly troubling contention, Robson writes of efforts “to get people assessed in an ER within four hours. In response, staff performed hasty evaluations before parking patients in corridors.
“These results do not come from sloth or stupidity. They come from perverse incentives unavoidable in central planning.”
Collins told the T-J the purpose of his U.K. trip was to study their systems and possibly incorporate them at STEGH.
If this is to meet patient-centered care protocols and emergency room wait time standards promoted by the Local Health Integration Networks and, ultimately, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care – which points to the NHS as a model that works – then we should heed Robson’s warning, “if we do not change the fundamentals of our system, then our future will look like their (Britain’s NHS) present.

AWAITING ANSWERS
Before leaving the hospital alone for the time being, we contacted Cathy Fox, communications and public relations specialist, seeking answers to the following questions.
Why doesn’t vice-president Whitmore’s salary appear on annual public sector salary disclosures? Surely as chief of staff her salary would exceed $100,000.
And, prior his arrival at STEGH, did vice-president of corporate services Malcolm Hopkins work outside of health care in British Columbia?
We’ll pass along the answers next week.

SURVEY SAYS . . .
Council is to deal with a report from the select skateboard park committee which documents feedback from those who attended the public meeting held Feb. 13.
The majority of respondents, 62%, favour a location next to the Timken Centre, which really is the only logical choice.
Twenty-two per cent wanted the location at Jonas Park, although 10% of respondents were opposed.
Fifteen percent of those in attendance liked non-existent Joanne Brooks Memorial Park, while 17% were opposed to that location.
The price tag remains in the $600,000 range, with the tax-funded portion of that pegged at $204,000, spread over a two-year period.

WHEN WAS THAT MEETING AGAIN?
Pretty sure this is a first for city council. Tucked inside Monday’s agenda is a report documenting the attendance of the mayor and aldermen at committee meetings held in 2012.
While most members have perfect or near-perfect records, Ald. Sam Yusuf’s tally can only be described as woeful.
He was present for just one of 11 new courthouse meetings, four of six site plan meetings and three of seven urban design committee meetings.
The site plan meetings must be real yawners because Ald. Mark Cosens graced the committee with his presence just once and the same for urban design, where he dropped in on four occasions. Otherwise, he earned gold stars for attendance at most of the other six committees he sits on.

GET YOUR TWO CENTS IN
Every year, armchair treasurers have no trouble offering up advice on how council should deal with fiscal matters.
Well this year, do something more constructive. Here’s your chance to meet face-to-face with mayor and council to question their spending habits and pitch your financial game plan.
Drop by St. Thomas Public Library on Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. to view budget documents and take advantage of the comment sheets available.
St. Thomas is a $100 million corporation that should always be open to probing and questioning from its shareholders.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“But we saved money by booking in advance and putting it on a credit card with rewards program, then we donated those points to Joe Fontana’s charity.”
Reader James Williams, posting on the Times-Journal website, responds to our story a week ago about the Singapore trip in February taken by four St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital executives.

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

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3 thoughts on “Hospital junkets open up wider health care debate

  1. Dont wait till next week to find out where I worked – this is the “scoopl”
    1995 – 2002: PLEA Mission statement : “Through unique services tailored to individual strengths and needs, PLEA helps children, youth, adults and families who face significant challenges to lead fulfilling lives within their communities.”

    Our Vision

    We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to have a “good life” and that everyone counts.

    Our services encompass areas such as Volunteer Mentoring, Addiction, Residential Care, Youth Justice, Youth Outreach, School & Work and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

    1988 – 1995: The Kerkhoff Group
    A fascinating and often controversial BC construction, property development and building products manufacturing group of companies.
    A little more exciting stuff – the company went spectacularly bankrupt around 1994 primarily due to being over extended in one of BC’s property cycles. Contrary to advice from the Company, the unwise decision by a group of investors in a Vancouver Island project, delayed by a city imposed moratorium, was to pursue litigation – as a result the investors got precious little. Had they waited as advised, they would have won out well – as the subsequent BC property boom has shown. This unhappiness inevitably led to investigations by the BC Securities commission ….and yes, I was censored and agreed to a penalty being imposed on me for my role as a Director of that particular company since I did not have the financial means to defend myself in a 10 day hearing by the Commission – costs of the hearing estimated at over $100k would have been for my account. A tough lesson on the perils of joint & several liability for the actions of fellow directors and a very difficult period in my life.

    And of course those who know my wife and I will know that between BC (Ministry of Children & Families) and St Thomas (Family & Children Services) we have fostered 87 high needs children over a 17 year period – ranging for an 8 year stay to a few months.

    We also are part of the founding team who established the Retrouvaille Community in London-St Thomas area to help couples hurting in their marriages. (www.retrouvaille.org) For this we were honoured with a private audience with Pope Benedict along with other community coordinators.

    And yes – I have a CA. And yes I was honoured by the Richard Ivey School of Business for academic excellence in my MBA and was named an Ivey Scholar.

    Anything else you’d like to know? My first hospital responsibility was on the Angolan Namibian border during a civil war…….now that would make an interesting story!! And then there was Addington Hospital in Durban South Africa where I received my initial degree in Economics and Psych…..and there’s lots more Ian!! Just ask me…no need to guess or wonder out loud!

  2. According to my sources I believe that 5 people went Singapore.

    • Yes but one was from the consulting firm not sure if that was paid for by stegh directly or indirectly. Same thing I suppose.

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