FTE numbers a ‘slippery slope downward’ at STEGH


city_scope_logo-cmykThey were initially announced two weeks ago and after badgering by the Times-Journal, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital administration is finally being a little more upfront on the extent of measures needed to overcome a $1 million budget shortfall for 2016/17.
Early in February it was announced as many as four full-time jobs could be cut but as many as 11 positions could be impacted through early retirement and attrition.
Hospital president and CEO Paul Collins stressed at the time the job losses won’t directly affect patient care.
How is that possible? Everything the hospital does revolves around patient care. What else is it in business for?
After all, STEGH’s mission statement promises “To deliver an excellent patient care experience . . .”
Notably absent from early discussions with the hospital was any mention of closing the outpatient lab and reducing its gastric diagnostic imaging services from four days a week to two, resulting in reduced part-time hours for medical radiology technologists.
That only surfaced when T-J reporter Jennifer Bieman — acting on information provided by an OPSEU representative — pressed hospital administration for further details on the cutbacks.
That’s the front-page story in  the Feb. 20 edition of the T-J.

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STEGH job cuts revive that old two-step episode


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A week of mixed blessings over at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. On Tuesday, Times-Journal reporter Jennifer Bieman wrote at length on its new role as a District Stroke Centre.
But it comes at a price as the facility will be reducing the number of registered nurses in the Continuing Care Centre by up to three but hiring more registered practical nurses and personal support workers to staff the unit.
At week’s end, we hear of more cuts at STEGH in order to meet a $1 million shortfall in their operating budget for 2016.
That can only mean more cuts, according to CEO Paul Collins. In this case up to another four staffers, although administrators are staying tight lipped at this point as to which departments will be impacted.

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A temporary fix for a long-term headache


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Call it the Great Divide — the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that was the byproduct of attempts to reach a consensus to ease severe overcrowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School.
And the unanimous decision this past Tuesday to proceed with the Thames Valley District School Board’s preferred option of busing students to Port Stanley will not quickly heal the wound.
Referred to as Option 1, the plan entails moving French Immersion and Extended French students in Grades 7 and 8 to Port Stanley Public School, beginning in September.
It was the recommendation of senior TVDSB administrators and will transform Pierre Elliott Trudeau school into a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility  for the time being.
In a discussion Thursday with Kevin Bushell, TVDSB manager of facility services, he explained the goal is to keep a cohort of students together.
By that, Bushell stressed the importance of “keeping the Grade 7 and 8’s together and not splitting them between two schools . . .  And we couldn’t get a large number for kindergarten to Grade 8 for French Immersion in Port Stanley so we would have small class sizes, split grades and small cohorts of students. Continue reading

In this case, one option does not fit all


city_scope_logo-cmykAs touched upon last week in this corner, senior administrators at the Thames Valley District School Board are recommending Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School become a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility, effective next July.
Under this proposal, French Immersion students in Grades 6-8 and Grade 7 and 8 Extended French students would attend classes in Port Stanley Public School.
This past October, the TVDSB presented six new options to parents and you have to ask does this proposal reflect popular opinion in the school community?

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Psst, need a courthouse parking permit?


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Seems there is a flourishing black market in St. Thomas that — surprisingly — does not involve sex, drugs or rock and roll.
The hot commodity is permits that allow you to park free of charge on residential streets adjacent to the consolidated courthouse on Wellington St.
The misuse of the permits prompted Queen St. resident Gerry Smith to vent his frustration in an email. He alleges the worst miscreants are lawyers and CAS workers, some visiting from London.
Gerry explains, “These parking passes are issued to people that live in the courthouse area for visitors, I have confronted many people that are parking in front of our house and they tell me they have borrowed the pass from a friend so they can park on our street.
“I have sent the mayor and (city manager) Wendell Graves hundreds of photos and emails since the courthouse opened and they of course have done nothing.” Continue reading

Diplomacy has disappeared at the top


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday afternoon we received a copy of a release from the Holiday Fantasy of Lights committee advising it is pulling the plug on the popular Pinafore Park winter festival.
“For 21 years, Fantasy of Lights has made Pinafore Park a beautiful winter wonderland of lights and display, with many families and people coming to the park to enjoy,” the release notes.
“With the retirement of our chairman and many senior committee members two years ago, we had to fold for a year. With a lot of effort over the last few months, we got a new chairman and some committee members, and had great ideas for the upcoming year.
“We have worked hard to get up and running for this season, but with all of the challenges that have been handed to us from the City and Parks Department, we have decided to fold the Fantasy of Lights for good.” Continue reading

When will mayor deliver on her parking promise?


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Not unlike the vehicles using them, the city’s consolidated courthouse parking program has required several major tuneups over the past year or so.
And the tinkering is nowhere near completion, based on the frustration level at Metcalfe Gardens where staff, residents and visitors are calling for a policy overhaul.
Prior to the opening of the new court facility in March, 2014, friends and relatives visiting the seniors residence could always park on the surrounding streets with nary a worry of being ticketed.
All that changed when the city and province reached an agreement whereby 315 parking spaces would be provided within a 300-metre radius of the courthouse.
That led to construction of the Crocker St. parking lot and several along the north side of Centre St., combined with a major crackdown on free on-street parking in the courthouse neighbourhood. Continue reading