Making alcohol more widely available has health cost implications

Dave Bryans, president of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, was mentioned in this corner recently (read post here) for leading the charge to allow beer and wine to be sold in convenience stores across the province.

His organization has launched a Facebook campaign asking voters to push for additional access to beer and wine in convenience stores.

Now OPSEU responds to the campaign with the argument Ontario needs to look very closely at the real costs of doing so. Visit their website.

Here is their release . . .

Ontario’s corner store owners are trying to stir up liquor privatization in the midst of the provincial election. They want thousands of convenience stores to be able to sell beer and wine in the province. The fringe Libertarian Party is going further by demanding the “repeal” of the LCBO and to allow anyone to sell alcohol.

Apparently what we need in the province is more access to alcohol, or so the corner stores say. For most of us, this is definitely a head scratcher.

When a final decision is made, Ontario needs to look very closely at the real costs of doing so, including the health costs.

The Local Health Integration Networks finally seem to be coming around to the idea of dealing with upstream costs, realizing there are huge savings to be had by preventing illness.

Allowing thousands of corners stores to sell booze would make such efforts into farce.

With the exception of the right-wing Fraser Institute, most studies have directly linked availability of liquor to consumption levels. Of course there are other factors, including price, but availability appears to be a key indicator.

As liquor sales go up, so do other health problems, ranging from liver cirrhosis to depression to addiction – all representing significant cost to our health system.

Provinces set up Liquor Control Boards precisely to limit the sale of liquor based on rational social needs.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse found in a 2004 survey that 32 per cent of respondents reported that in the past year they had experienced some harm due to drinking by others.

Walking into a convenience store you may be tempted to sign their petition. Before doing so, think about how much you will really have to pay to get your beer and wine at the corner store. You may not like the answer.

PC candidate Jeff Yurek responds to Health Minister Deb Matthews

At the nomination meeting where Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands was acclaimed provincial Liberal candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London, MPP Deb Matthews made a rather outlandish claim.

She suggested PC leader Tim Hudak has a true allegiance to ‘Big Pharma’ in Ontario and that’s why he’s running pharmacists as candidates across the province, a reference to popular St. Thomas pharmacist Jeff Yurek, who recently won the provincial PC nomination for EML. Read full story here.

Via a letter to the editor, Yurek responds to Matthews . . .

In response to the allegations made by the Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, it is necessary to clarify her misstatements.
While I am flattered Ms. Matthews would think that I was hand selected by the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Tim Hudak, her statement is false.

Through a democratic process, I was elected from a field of five candidates by the members of the Elgin-Middlesex-London riding association for the provincial Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Hudak played no role in the nomination process.

I was elected by the party membership because of their confidence in my experience and abilities. I am a husband, a father, a business owner and a healthcare professional who understands and can bring an educated and experienced point of view to Queen’s Park.

It is important to focus on the real issues in healthcare.

Dalton McGuinty has wasted over one billion dollars on the E-Health scandal and one of the top bureaucrats during the scandal was paid $763,000 in 2010, even though he quit in 2009. The bureaucracy of the Local Health Integration Networks consumes resources that would be better used for frontline healthcare.

A Tim Hudak Progressive Conservative government will put an end to E-Health waste, scrap the LHINs and reinvest the money into frontline healthcare.

Jeff Yurek
Progressive Conservative Candidate

The Dalton McGuinty government says it’s showing lobbyists the door.

St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital was one of 14 hospitals which used taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist to get more money from the government.

Here’s more on the practice from the Toronto Sun …

Health Minister Deb Matthews said Tuesday she will introduce legislation to ban public institutions such as hospitals and universities from using tax dollars to hire consultants who lobby government for more tax dollars.

“There was a day when that’s how business got done,” she said. “We can’t afford that any more.”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath identified 14 hospitals and nine universities and colleges that retained private lobbyists to approach the government.

“These public dollars should be going into front line services,” Horwath said.
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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.

Ontario Health Coalition Applauds Ombudsman’s Report on LHIN Spin

Health Coalition Applauds Ombudsman’s Report on LHIN Spin: Demands McGuinty Stop Delaying the LHINs Review, Investigate Poor LHIN Decisions to Cut Hospital Care for Thousands of Residents

TORONTO, Aug. 10 /CNW/ – The Ontario Health Coalition applauds Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin’s report, “The LHIN Spin”. But the Coalition is deeply concerned that the McGuinty government has evaded its legislative requirement to conduct a full review of its Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and the legislation that governs them and is continuing a major round of health system cuts and restructuring while shutting out virtually all public advocates that have expressed concerns or criticized their reforms. Ironically, though the Ombudsman gave credit to the Ministry of Health for belatedly setting proposed standards for LHINs’ public consultation, the Ministry has not consulted with public advocates who have experience trying to work with the LHINs regarding these standards.

Ombudsman Andre Marin reported that the McGuinty government-appointed LHINs have rendered community engagement “meaningless”. He stated that LHIN board members counted conversations on golf courses and in grocery stores as public consultations. He noted that they relied on presentations of the provider organizations to make decisions affecting access to health care for tens of thousands of residents. He was particularly critical of the LHINs for adopting illegal by-laws to meet behind closed doors.
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Long Term Care Waitlists Growing – Homes Challenged to Respond

The Ontario Health Quality Council’s annual report, released today, sheds light on the stark reality in the province’s long term care system – demand far outstrips supply.

“There are about 76,000 long term care beds in homes across the province, which are 98 per cent full, and there is a waitlist of over 25,000 people. It’s not hard to see that this is creating backlogs in patient flow across the health care system,” said Donna Rubin, CEO of the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS).

In an analysis of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s waitlist data, OANHSS calculates that the greatest demand exists in the not-for-profit sector. Not-for-profits account for just over 40 per cent of all homes in the province and less than one half of all beds, but they are the number one preference of two thirds of individuals on the total provincial waitlist.

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Failure to reduce long-term care and emergency waiting lists a black mark against McGuinty and LHINs

Too many people in Ontario are still waiting too long for the medical care they need, the Ontario Health Quality Council said Thursday in its 2010 annual report.

The council, an independent, arm’s-length agency, said progress had been made in reducing wait times for some surgeries and procedures, but others were still unacceptably long.

“When only 53 per cent of those urgent cancer cases are completed within the two-week target, when about one-quarter of people spend more time in the emergency department than is recommended and desirable, and when the wait time for a long-term care bed is three times what it was in 2005, then it is obvious that the system has some significant issues to address,” said council chair Lynn McLeod.

“In many areas of care too many people still wait too long.”

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New Long Term Care Funding Agreements to be negotiated with Local Health Integration Networks

Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) are bound by the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006 to have service accountability agreements in place with all their Health Service Providers (HSP), including municipal long term care homes. The Long Term Care Service Accountability Agreements (LSAA) are the Agreements by which LHINs will flow funding to providers of long term care services including municipalities.

The LSAA template Agreement for LTC homes was developed on behalf of all LHINs by a steering committee co-chaired by Ministry and LHIN staff, in consultation with organizations representing service providers and funders. The LSAA consultation process began in the fall of 2009 and continued through to May 2010. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) was a member of the consultation table along with the City of Toronto, the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS), the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) and the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA).

The LSAA was developed under challenging circumstances that include the introduction of the new Long Term Care compliance regulations. Both the LSAA and the regulations come into effect with the proclamation of the Long Term Care Homes Act in July.
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