Ontario's health networks require sweeping reforms

'The genie is out of the bottle and no matter how hard he tries the premier won’t ever get it back in.' - Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE)Toronto (13 Aug. 2010) – A devastating report by Ontario's ombudsman on the secret decision-making of the province's Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) has exposed a rot that requires sweeping reforms, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).

“The findings made by André Marin cry out for a full investigation into the ways these undemocratic LHINs go about their decision making,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

"The genie is out of the bottle and no matter how hard he tries the premier won’t ever get it back in. We salute Ombudsman Marin’s efforts, but the job won’t be finished until LHINs are overhauled by putting the public interest first. That’s never been the case since the day they were created five years ago.”

The report by Marin was blunt: Community engagement in local decision-making around hospital closures and service cutbacks was characterized as “meaningless.” Most appalling, LHINs have deliberately adopted bylaws guaranteeing that public advocates have no input in local decision-making.

The ministry of health has since ordered the province’s 14 LHINs to overturn those anti-democratic measures.

Thomas says the McGuinty government bears responsibility for the mess because it has evaded a legislative requirement to conduct a full review of LHINs and the legislation that governs them while moving ahead with health care cuts and restructuring.

"It’s not enough to say the problem will take care of itself. It won’t," argues Thomas. "The prescription needed to cure this sick public body is strong leadership and we haven’t seen much of that."

Thomas paid tribute to the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) which has doggedly advocated for change in the way LHINs conduct their business. At a round of public hearings earlier this year that attracted more than 1,150 participants and received close to 500 oral and written presentations, the OHC recommended sweeping changes to the LHINs.

"We determined that the LHINs are so lacking in public confidence, so flawed in their size and confused in their mandate, that we have recommended that the province change direction and create new accountable regional planning bodies closer to home with a principled and clear mandate,” the OHC report said.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
Ombudsman rips health agency over ER closures

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