Ombudsman rips health agency over ER closures

Niagara-Haldimand-Brant LHIN held meetings 'that were clearly illegal,' says André Marin.

Ontario ombudsman André MarinToronto (12 Aug. 2010) - Ontario ombudsman André Marin is blasting a Niagara health agency for holding secret meetings to discuss plans to close hospital emergency rooms.

In a report titled The LHIN Spin, the ombudsman says the Niagara-Haldimand-Brant Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) held closed meetings "that were clearly illegal" to talk about shutting the Fort Erie and Port Colborne emergency rooms.

The report does not look at the merits of the decision to close the ERs — Marin doesn't have jurisdiction over hospitals — but it says the LHIN failed to properly consult the community on the plan.

The ministry of health had "a last-minute change of heart" Monday and agreed to tell the 14 LHINs across Ontario to stop what the ombudsman calls this "clandestine practice," Marin reports.

Even though they were set up so health care decisions are made at a local level, Marin says the LHIN's "reality of community decision-making has fallen short of the political spin."

Critics believe the closure of the emergency room in Fort Erie may have played a part in the death of a teenager because an ambulance had to travel 20 kilometres to Welland instead.

Opposition parties in the Ontario legislature say the government hides behind the LHINs whenever there are unpopular health-care decisions to be announced.


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