Ontario Tories, NDP critics Gang Up On Liberal Government Over Hospital Cuts, Liberal-Friendly Health Care Bureaucrats

By Doug Draper

Opposition critics, including Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea Horwath, hammered at Premier Dalton McGuinty and his health minister, Deborah Matthews, in the provincial legislature this February 17 over cuts to health care and the unelected Local Health Integration Networks the province set up to help manage hospital services.

Ontario Conservative leader and Niagara area MPP Tim Hudak slams McGuinty on hospital cuts, LHIN appointements.

The cutting of hospital services, including the closing of emergency rooms at hospitals in Port Colborne and Fort Erie, were raised during the heated debate. Tory health critic Christine Elliot also took aim at Juanita Gledhill, head of the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) for the Niagara and Hamilton areas, questioning her qualifications for the job and describing her as a Liberal Party donor who has a background of working with Liberal members. According to a fact sheet circulated by the Tories, more than $176 million health care dollars have been dolled out to unelected LHIN bodies across the province over the past three years.

More than 40 Liberal appointees sitting on these boards have shown up on the annual Sunshine list for bureaucrats across the province making annual salaries of more than $100,000.

For related stories on the challenges and controversies around hospital services in the Niagara region today, click on http://www.niagaraatlarge.com. In the meantime, Niagara At Large is posting the hansard for the Feb. 16 in the legislature for the record. You can read it by clicking on keep reading at the end of this sentence, then feel free to share your views in the comment boxes below.

ORAL QUESTIONS LOCAL HEALTH INTEGRATION NETWORKS

Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is to the Premier. Premier, we learned yesterday that the same Liberal-friendly consultants who got fat and rich off of sweetheart deals during your eHealth boondoggle have now come back for second helpings through your LHINs, the regional health bureaucracies. Premier, just like at eHealth, there has been enormous growth in executive salaries and benefits at your LHINs. Premier, could you inform the Legislature exactly what has been the increase in LHIN bureaucrats earning more than $100,000 per year? The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Every day I’m coming to believe more and more that my honourable colleague has a bright future in creative fiction. He spins a wonderful tale and it’s always interesting to engage in that kind of fantasy. But as I like to say, the facts are not entirely irrelevant in this place. I’m going to give my colleague the Minister of Health an opportunity to speak to this in the subsequent questions. I can say at the outset that we’re very proud of all those people who dedicate themselves to working through our local health integration networks and to delivering better health care on the ground. The idea and the ideal that informed this new policy was to ensure that instead of having all the decisions with respect to local health care made here at Queen’s Park or in downtown Toronto, we could delegate some of those responsibilities to people on the ground, who live in the communities, who understand the needs of their communities.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Tim Hudak: Well, Premier, let me give you more of the facts from your very own sunshine list. In 2006, when you created your regional health bureaucracies, the so-called LHINs, there were 40 bureaucrats making $100,000 or more per year. In just three short years, the list of LHIN bureaucrats making 100 grand or more is up 150% to a total of 95. At the same time, Premier, executive salaries are up 213%. Now, Premier, facts are stubborn things and the facts speak for themselves. Why are you diverting money meant for patient care to line the pockets of more health bureaucrats?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Premier?  Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Health. Hon. Deborah Matthews: I think it’s an appropriate thing to take a few moments and talk about LHINs. LHINs, local health integration networks, were established only, I believe, three years ago. Their job is critically important in the creation of a sustainable health care future for Ontario. What they are charged with, the responsibility they have, is to integrate health services at a local level. They are doing, I would say, a very, very fine job. One of the best examples of the work they are doing is the integration of community supports for people who otherwise would be in the hospital. So those are the alternate-levels-of-care patients, patients who are in hospital but could be in the community. The LHINs have embraced this challenge, and I’m very pleased with the work that they are doing.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final … follows (Hon. Deborah Matthews) … the alternate-level-of-care patients, patients who are in hospital but could be in the community. The LHINs have embraced this challenge, and I am very pleased with the work that they are doing. 

 The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: Well, let me wake up the Premier from his reverie. Let me take him out of his fantasy world and tell him what’s really happening on the ground in health care in the province of Ontario. Premier, your government has closed down ERs in communities like Fort Erie and Port Colborne, and at the same time, the number of health bureaucrats at your LHINs making $100,000 or more is up 150%. There are now 15 senior executives at these regional health bureaucracies making $200,000 a year or more. Premier, it is outrageous to see money meant for front-line patient care being diverted to more fat cat bureaucrats, and it’s outrageous that you created this bureaucracy in the first place instead of putting money into front-line patient cares of services. What makes you think you can get away with this?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: The work that the LHINs are doing is really on-the-ground front-line work. We have established a new diabetes strategy; the LHINS are helping us implement that. The work they are doing, that local planning work where they’re bringing in all of the health care providers, the CCACs the long-term-care homes and those organizations that actually provide service through volunteers such as the Meals on Wheels and driver services for people, this is the kind of work that has to be done at the local level. If the Leader of the Opposition believes that we can provide that local integration out of Queen’s Park, I beg to differ. I think that is work that needs to be done at the local level, and the LHINs deserve the support that we give them because they are integral to the sustainability of our health care system.

LOCAL HEALTH INTEGRATION NETWORKS

Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Premier: Your Minister of Health just claimed the services are going to front-line care. The evidence and the facts are quite the opposite. The only thing happening on the ground is a longer wait time for more health bureaucrats to help themselves to the trough in your regional health bureaucracies. Let me give you, Premier, another fact from your very own records. Barrie Monaghan was CEO of the Toronto Central LHIN until he resigned on November 9, 2007. Premier, if Mr. Monaghan resigned in 2007, then why did the Toronto Central LHIN pay him $351,000 in 2008?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Health. Hon. Deborah Matthews: The member opposite, I think, needs a bit of an education on some of the progress that we’ve made when it comes to improving wait times. When we took office in 2003, people were waiting unconscionable lengths of time for essential surgeries. In fact, the wait times were so long that people were actually getting worse as they were waiting, and they could never fully recover from, for example, a new hip, because they had waited so long. The wait times were not just extremely painful for patients; they were really damaging the health of the people who were waiting, so we attacked wait times. We actually, for the first time ever, started to measure how long we’re waiting. We publicly report; you can go online. At the website, you can see, for every single hospital, a number of different procedures, and you can actually track for yourself how we’ve been able to bring down the wait times—

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Premier, the real world and your friend Barry Monaghan. The Ontario PC caucus has freedom-of-information information which reveals that at the same time as Mr. Monaghan collected $351,000 in salary from the Toronto Central LHIN, Mr. Monaghan also received an untendered consulting contract worth $104,000 from the Mississauga Halton LHIN. Add it up: $455,000 meant for Ontario patients ended up in your friend Mr. Monaghan’s pockets. Premier, why was half a million dollars meant for patient care sole-sourced to one of your friends in your regional health bureaucracies?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: The leader of the third party maybe forgot a kind of important piece of information. That is that we have changed the rules around sole-sourced contracting. We listened to what the Auditor General had to say, we made the changes, and we are moving forward … L203-1045-17 follows [Hon. Deborah Matthews] … kind of important piece of information, and that is that we have changed the rules around sole-sourced contracting. We listened to what the Auditor General had to say, we made the changes and we are moving forward, because this government believes that absolutely every dime we spend on health care simply must go to improving health care for people. That is at the core of our health care approach. The rules that were in place when the party opposite was in power are not okay. They’re not good enough. So we acted last summer and fall to implement those rule changes. We moved forward with those tough new rules. As we said yesterday, I have written to all the LHIN board chairs and I have asked them to seek reimbursement for inappropriate past expenses. In the supplementary I will—

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Final supplementary?

Mr. Tim Hudak: Well, no surprise: The Premier has dodged four consecutive questions on the runaway spending at his regional health bureaucracies and the LHINs. Let’s put this into perspective. During Dalton McGuinty’s eHealth boondoggle, his highly paid and hand-picked senior executive helped to funnel untendered contracts to Liberal-friendly consultants like John Ronson, Karli Farrow, the Premier’s former health adviser and Michael Guerriere of Courtyard. Now with your LHINs, these regional health bureaucracies, you have 14 highly paid executives and millions in untendered contracts headed out to Liberal-friendly consultants or former CEOs like Barry Monaghan. We are seeing a pattern where Dalton McGuinty’s scandals are having sequels, like the OLG. Premier, when you see these abuses at the LHINs, doesn’t it look like this is the son of eHealth at your regional health bureaucracies? Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me repeat, because it’s clear that the Leader of the Opposition didn’t hear what I said. All of the contracts that he’s referred to were from before we made the rule changes. We have made the rule changes. We have fixed the problem. This was an important initiative that this government has undertaken. Let me read from a letter that I wrote to the LHIN board chairs: “Public confidence and trust is crucial to continuing this progress. As health care leaders, we need to spend tax dollars wisely and we need to be accountable for our decisions. I can’t over”—

Interjections. The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The member from Renfrew will please come to order. Minister, please continue.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I continue quoting from this. “I can’t overemphasize how important it is to ensure that every single dime we spend within our health care system is spent in a way that would be acceptable to a thoughtful taxpayer. “Last summer and fall” we “brought in … new rules to increase accountability … and I expect them to be followed.”

LOCAL HEALTH INTEGRATION NETWORKS

Mrs. Christine Elliott: My question is for the Premier. What qualifications do you look for in people you appoint to LHINs, Premier, other than donations to the Ontario Liberal Party?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would just ask the honourable member to withdraw that comment.

Mrs. Christine Elliott: Withdrawn. What qualifies your appointees, Premier, to sit on boards of LHINs?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Health. Hon. Deborah Matthews: As we discussed earlier today, the LHINs play a critically important role in our health care system. Their job is to integrate health care services at the local level. As a result, we expect that we have a very high standard of quality of the people who are sitting on the LHINs. They go through a rigorous process. We have moved, actually, to a skills-based matrix so that we have in each LHIN the right skill set so that the LHIN represents the community but it also represents a degree of expertise in many different areas. It’s a very important responsibility they have. We take it seriously. They do go through the public appointments system, and members opposite have a chance to invite them to participate.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mrs. Christine Elliott: Perhaps we could take a look at the background of some of these appointees. Anju Kumar has a background in IT, not health. She donated over $1,000 to the McGuinty Liberals and was appointed to the Toronto Central LHIN. Glenna Heggie is a retired teacher who donated $6,358 and she’s on the Waterloo–Wellington LHIN. These hand-picked appointees don’t even hold themselves out as having any special expertise in health. Juanita Gledhill lists working with Steve Mahoney at the WSIB as experience. She’s also a donor. You appointed her chair of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN … follows (Mrs. Elliott) … themselves out as having any special expertise in health. Juanita Gledhill lists working with Steve Mahoney at the WSIB as experience. She is also a donor. You appointed her chair of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN, which shut down the Fort Erie and Port Colborne emergency rooms. How much does someone have to give to have the pleasure of doing your bidding?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I have to say I think this is beneath the member opposite. The LHINs have a very important responsibility. They are selected very carefully. We have a very careful process where we get the best possible mix of skills on the LHIN. If the member opposite doesn’t think that IT experience might come in handy when it comes to health, I think that’s living in a past age. The quality of the people on our LHINs is very high. As we move to implement the skills-based matrix, I do believe that we’ll be able to increase the quality and the mix of people in the LHINs. ….

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): New question. HEALTH CARE FUNDING Ms. Andrea Horwath: This question is to the Premier as well. When the previous government was running a $5-billion deficit, the Premier labelled their corporate tax giveaway “irresponsible,” “ideological” and “inappropriate.” I’ll ask the Premier the very same question that he once posed when he was on this side of the House. “How is it that you have” billions “for additional corporate tax cuts, but you don’t have enough money, apparently, for the Ministry of Health to ensure that we meet the needs of our families when they’ve got to go to Ontario hospitals?”

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: What we’ve done is we’ve introduced a comprehensive package of tax reforms. Not only are there, I think, about— Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Premier. Please continue.

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: We have, I think, about $4.5 billion for business tax cuts, but we have over $10 billion for personal tax cuts. Again, I would reference my colleagues who believe that Mike Harris is somehow, today, working for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that he’s, in fact, not doing that, and that there’s a lot of support, notwithstanding the fact that my friends resent this, for our package of tax reforms from the left—from economists who are generally seen to be on the left, from food banks and from poverty organizations who understand that, fundamentally, this about improving the lot in life of our least fortunate in the province of Ontario. It’s a balanced, thoughtful, moderate, progressive package of tax reforms to help people and to help our economy.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I’d say it’s a resurrection from the past. That’s what I’d say it is. We can preserve our health care system, though, if we plan responsibly and make smart investments today, but that’s not what this government’s doing. They’ve left hospitals and clinics across the province making random cuts to front-line services while money we cannot spare… L203-1055-17 follows (Ms. Andrea Horwath) … and make smart investments today, but that’s not what this government is doing. They’ve left hospitals and clinics across the province making random cuts to front-line services while money we cannot spare is being given away to corporate tax cuts. Why does this Premier think that it is a responsible choice today when he rejected that very same choice in the past?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m not sure how many times I can say it or in how many different ways I might say it, but my friends stand against the plan that we have in place. They have yet to put forward an alternative of their own. It would be nice to see something at some point in time. Let me tell you a bit more about our plan and why we are so proud of our plan and so sure that it’s the right plan for our time. It’s about ensuring that Ontario is competitive, not just for purposes of meeting our immediate needs today but for purposes of securing a bright future for our children tomorrow. We want to have in place the economic strength to ensure that we can continue to fund their schools, their health care, their environmental protections and their jobs. That’s what this package of tax reforms is all about. It represents about $4.5 billion in cuts for businesses and $10 billion in cuts for people. It’s about ensuring that we take all the necessary steps today to strengthen our families, to strengthen our economy, to make sure that we have up to 600,000 more jobs.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: What this government has decided is, a tax package worth $2 billion in revenue shortfall is the right way to go. We disagree, on this side of the House. Families across the province are seeing cuts to front-line services; that is a fact. Nursing positions, beds and pain clinics are shutting down daily; that is a fact. They aren’t being replaced by other local services either, so don’t try to say that they are. They are just vanishing from communities across the province. It’s not an accident. It is a choice that this government is making and that this Premier is making. My question is simple: Shouldn’t health care for families come before corporate tax giveaways?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, hospital funding has gone up every single year on our watch. It will go up again this year. It will not go up as dramatically as it has in the past because we’re running close to a $25-billion deficit. Now, my friend opposite believes that’s not particularly relevant. We think that’s important. My friends opposite also know that this is a function of governments everywhere acting in concert to stimulate our economy. We’re borrowing money to stimulate our economy, in keeping with the very best advice. They’re doing that in the federal government. We’re doing it in Ontario. They’re doing it in virtually every province and every part of the world. That’s an important dimension that we have to take into account as we plan for this year’s budget. Health care funding will go up, hospital budget funding will go up but it will not go up as dramatically as it has in the past, given our circumstances.

LOCAL HEALTH INTEGRATION NETWORKS

Mrs. Christine Elliott: My question is for the Premier. What qualifications do you look for in people you appoint to LHINs, Premier, other than donations to the Ontario Liberal Party?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would just ask the honourable member to withdraw that comment.

Mrs. Christine Elliott: Withdrawn. What qualifies your appointees, Premier, to sit on boards of LHINs?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Health. Hon. Deborah Matthews: As we discussed earlier today, the LHINs play a critically important role in our health care system. Their job is to integrate health care services at the local level. As a result, we expect that we have a very high standard of quality of the people who are sitting on the LHINs. They go through a rigorous process. We have moved, actually, to a skills-based matrix so that we have in each LHIN the right skill set so that the LHIN represents the community but it also represents a degree of expertise in many different areas. It’s a very important responsibility they have. We take it seriously. They do go through the public appointments system, and members opposite have a chance to invite them to participate.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mrs. Christine Elliott: Perhaps we could take a look at the background of some of these appointees. Anju Kumar has a background in IT, not health. She donated over $1,000 to the McGuinty Liberals and was appointed to the Toronto Central LHIN. Glenna Heggie is a retired teacher who donated $6,358 and she’s on the Waterloo–Wellington LHIN. These hand-picked appointees don’t even hold themselves out as having any special expertise in health. Juanita Gledhill lists working with Steve Mahoney at the WSIB as experience. She’s also a donor. You appointed her chair of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN … … themselves out as having any special expertise in health. Juanita Gledhill lists working with Steve Mahoney at the WSIB as experience. She is also a donor. You appointed her chair of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN, which shut down the Fort Erie and Port Colborne emergency rooms. How much does someone have to give to have the pleasure of doing your bidding?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I have to say I think this is beneath the member opposite. The LHINs have a very important responsibility. They are selected very carefully. We have a very careful process where we get the best possible mix of skills on the LHIN. If the member opposite doesn’t think that IT experience might come in handy when it comes to health, I think that’s living in a past age. The quality of the people on our LHINs is very high. As we move to implement the skills-based matrix, I do believe that we’ll be able to increase the quality and the mix of people in the LHINs.

QUICK FACTS (circulated February 17, 2010 by Ontario Conservative Party). ·

Dalton McGuinty created a new layer of bureaucracy with his so-called “Local Health Integration Networks” (LHINs). Since 2006-2007 more than $176 million health care dollars have been diverted away from Ontario families and directed towards salaries and administration at these boards. · In 2006, 40 Liberal appointees to these local health boards made it on the Sunshine List. Between 2006 and 2009, total executive salaries at local health boards increased by 213%. 95 health board executives appeared on the 2008 Sunshine List with 15 executives making more than $200,000. The average salary of a local health board CEO is more than $261,000. · The former CEO of the Toronto Central health board, Barry Monaghan, Collected $1.1 million in salary over the course of three years. Even though Monaghan resigned in November 2007, the Toronto Central health board continued to pay him $351,000 in 2008. While still collecting money from the Toronto Central health board, Monaghan signed a contract with the Mississauga – Halton health board that paid him an additional $104,000.

(click on www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary on this and other issues of regional concern and interest.)

4 responses to “Ontario Tories, NDP critics Gang Up On Liberal Government Over Hospital Cuts, Liberal-Friendly Health Care Bureaucrats

  1. Blah, blah, blah! What a steaming pile of —-! First question would be – who started all the health care cuts that led to this current fiasco? That would be Conservative Mr.Harris. Who continued to ruin the health care system? That would be liberal Mr. McGuinty.
    When the Yellow Shirts and populace of Fort Erie were out in the streets trying to preserve their hospital services where was Tim Hudak, a Fort Erie native? Never saw him once! I often saw Kim Craitor and also saw Andrea Horwath.
    So who do you trust? The answer must be concluded – pretty well nobody in government. If someone stands up to the party line their career can usually be pretty much considered toast! The only truth in this Hansard transcript is that the fat cats get fatter and share with their buddies. Big surprise! One party criticizes the other and then when it’s their turn in power they do exactly the same thing. They assume the public has a short memory and, sadly, they’re often right.
    As for qualifications, that is an absolute joke! Skills-based matrix??????? Who came up with that? More political gobbledy-gook. These turkeys must earn their outrageous salaries based on the fact that they stay up all night coming up with these catch phrases and acronyms. Very few of the individuals in these high paid positions have the qualifications to run a convenience store at a profit let alone a provincial health care system upon which several million lives depend.
    After working in the health care system for 40 years, my attitude changed from one of genuine pride in the services I was able to provide to embarrassment when I had to admit what I did for a living. I was ashamed at what my profession was forced to become due to bean-counters with no knowledge of the medical field. It was no longer nursing but crowd control. The people of Ontario have to wake up and realize what they are losing in health services and what these clowns are doing with our tax dollars.

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  2. There should be pride in the Southern Tier of Niagara. For over a full year we have relentlessly raised our voices in protest of second-rate Health services. For the past three days the main subject in Parliament has been the status of Health care in the Province with emphasis on our ER closures, the questionable death of young Reilly and the costly LHIN operation with special recognition to Juanita Gledhill and her donation to the Liberal Party.
    I am convinced that the continuous pressure and combined voices from us is responsible for the subject of our Hospitals{Nursing Homes} to still be a topical item in Parliament.
    I am equally convinced that the Premier has received the message to never mess with anyones Emergency Room again.
    Now is not the time to relax.. voice our displeasure until the HIP plan is re-evaluated and our equal taxes paid gives us equality in Health Care.
    Write a letter now,,someone is listening.

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  3. I must say that I totally agree with Linda McKellars , and Sue Salzers statements in the Niagara At large article on the problems with the LHIN.
    Lets start from the beginning and may I ask what did you expect , And when I ask that ,I mean ,I blame a lot of this on the quality of your local representation at regional council, What were Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin and Shirly Cordiner, the town’s directly elected member to regional council, thinking when they supported funding the hospital in west St. Catharines to the tune of approx. 60 million dollars without asking the simple question,what guarantee do we have that our hospital will stay open, nice and simple but It went over their head , so much for experience!
    The board had it all together, and I believe they knew what they were doing because within two weeks, once they knew their funding was in place they made the announcement that DMH would close. Is this the kind of experience you expected.
    Martin is now telling people that our hospital is not closed, that the only difference is that they don’t do Cat Scans there anymore, geez I didn’t know that they ever did them there.
    Lets keep electing the politicians in our popularity contests . You see how the guy acts that wants to run for provincial politics would you want to have to deal with him at the provincial level, this guy reminds me of Adolf Hitler and I believe he is a very dangerous person.
    Are there any skeletons in Hudaks closet? It depends who you ask. My opinion is that none of these guys can be trusted and none of these guys should be trusted, or even get a chance to get into these positions.

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  4. LHIN carried out illegal act(s) according to the Ombudsman. The people who drafted the illegal bye-law and those LHIN people who used its content should be charged with breaking the law.
    The super hospital in St Kitts? Al Queda will love that. One superbug let loose in that place and how many would be quarantined? How many would have no access to the quarantined hospital? Keep Fort Erie and Port Colborne emergency services fully functional….there will come a day when these rural hospitals will be very useful.

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