‘Underfunded and struggling’ – dealing with mental health issues in St. Thomas and across the province

city_scope_logo-cmykThere is no challenge whatsoever as to the merit of the program, what is of dire concern is the hand-to-mouth existence experienced at this time in keeping a Canadian Mental Health Association response worker as a resource for St. Thomas Police.
Earlier this month, city council approved an $18,000 expenditure that will allow
clinician Alex Paterson to remain with the service until the end of June.
She has been on board since October of 2017 when a one-year pilot program was launched.
Several extensions ensued, with the latest set to expire at the end of the month, allowing St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge additional time to explore funding opportunities with the province and the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
We talked to Herridge this week to ascertain what financial gateways are open to him to ensure financial stability for a resource that has proven itself from the get-go. Continue reading

‘If you are fighting battles internally and fearful of things in your own workplace, it doesn’t make for productive work.’ – Turning the corner at CMHA Elgin?

city_scope_logo-cmykLast October, about two dozen staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association stood outside the Centre Street office where they claimed to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
At that time, OPSEU staff representative Carol Warner asserted St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” noted Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.”
That information picket by members of OPSEU Local 133 and the allegations of workplace harassment resulted in the appointment of a third-party investigator by the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) to report on CMHA Elgin’s compliance with its contractual agreement to the LHIN. Continue reading

‘Something needs to change with regard to the healthcare system and how it is being managed’ – MPP Jeff Yurek

city_scope_logo-cmykResidents of St. Thomas and Elgin are being “shortchanged” on physiotherapy services, charges Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
He stood up in the Ontario Legislature this week to question the Kathleen Wynne government on the closing of MobilityFit Physiotherapy in St. Thomas, one of only two such services in the city funded through OHIP.
Yurek alleges both the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have “refused to act on the impending loss of service.”
Yurek added, “When contacted for a status update, both the SW LHIN and ministry responded with the same talking points. Neither would state whether or not the clinic is closing.” Continue reading

Closing the hospital labs? We’ll notify you about that

An upbeat interview in Friday’s Times-Journal with Paul Jenkins, the new executive director of the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital Foundation.
He is the individual who assumes the position previously held by Allan Weatherall who, like Malcolm Hopkins, didn’t fit into the long-term game plan of hospital CEO Paul Collins.
Well Paul’s fundraising endeavors may become that much more difficult based on information forwarded to City Scope on Friday.
As we understand matters, the downsizing/outsourcing may very well continue with pathology labs now housed at the hospital possibly about to be shuttered at the end of the year.
We don’t have a handle on number of people who might be impacted, although some of the work undertaken could be moved, possibly to Woodstock General Hospital. The remainder of the work would likely be assumed by a London facility.
A bit of a complication here though. The St. Thomas jobs are unionized whereas the Woodstock workplace is non-union so some negotiating would be in order.
The union – which has to be given five months notice – was apparently notified of this situation on July 11. That would mean the final day of employment in the STEGH labs would be on or around Dec. 11.
Continue reading

Hospital junkets open up wider health care debate


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.
Continue reading

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.’”
Continue reading

If you don’t endorse a bylaw, do you still have to abide?


Ald. Tom Johnston appears to have dug in his heels on the matter of receiving compensation for serving as chairman of the Ascent board of directors, in spite of a city bylaw to the contrary, as first brought to light in this corner last week. Read here.
Johnston voted against the motion when it was adopted in 2009 and he appears now to have adopted the stance that is justification for thumbing his nose at the bylaw today in accepting season hockey tickets as compensation or a bonus from Ascent.
Unfortunately, under the Ontario Municipal Act, there is little recourse for the city and we talked Friday with Mayor Heather Jackson on that very matter. Continue reading

St. Thomas resident calls on health minister to intervene in STEGH CEO fiasco

To: Hon. D. Matthews, MPP Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
M. Barrett, CEO South West LHIN

Cc: I. McCallum, Page Editor St. Thomas Times-Journal

Subject: St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital Fiasco

I am sending this request by e-mail as time is of the essence. I would like to draw your attention to the events undermining public trust and confidence that are unfolding at the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital involving the “retired” CEO Paul Collins.

STEGH CEO and President Paul Collins

To-date the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital board of governors has ignored strongly worded direction given by two elected municipal bodies; the Elgin County Council and the St. Thomas City Council calling for the replacement of CEO Paul Collins. Further St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital board of governors is reportedly about to give Mr. Collins a new 5-year contract.
“It is Council’s considered opinion that the public’s perception of the circumstances surrounding the position’s reappointment are irrevocably tainted… ”

This situation has contributed to the resignation of a prominent businessman from the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital transition committee.

“The news of the recent actions of the Board of Governors of the STEGH in the face of municipal opposition is deeply offensive. The sheer arrogance of entitlement which controls the thinking of the Board of Governors of our hospital boggles the mind.”

I understand that you have the authority to intervene and put an end to this management fiasco and request your immediate attention to the matter.


Bill Sandison
St. Thomas, ON

Dealing with staffing challenges at community health centre


As reported in this corner last week, a doctor so ideally suited to fill the position (the observation of Michael Barrett, CEO of the Southwest Local Health Integration Network) tendered her resignation just two months after the official opening of the Central Community Health Centre in St. Thomas.

Our accounting of the departure of physician Janice Owen and two nurse practitioners (read here) drew a not unexpected angry rebuttal from Judith Wiley, executive director of the CHC and Cathy Grondin, CHC board chairman.

It also resulted in the issuance of a damage-control media release at 4:50 p.m. Thursday that alluded to “start up challenges” at the CHC with an assurance the centre remains open for patients. The release followed a meeting Thursday involving Wiley and Grondin and the SW LHIN to “discuss the recent staffing challenges.” Read release here

Continue reading