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While the Sydenham District Hospital board was happy overall with the investigator’s report into the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, they did have some constructive criticism for some of the reports recommendations.

Sheldon Parsons, chair of the SDH board, said during their August 17 meeting that they wanted to address the issues in a constructive way.

Board membership

Parsons said he is concerned with the comment made by Adamson in the report mentioning a “robust and transparent nomination process together with a community engagement process that reflects best practises.

“This is the comment with regard to an open or closed board,” Parsons said.

“We disagree with the direction that seems to be suggested. A closed board style of government is the exact problem that got us into the situation we are in. It is our open board, open communities and open membership that forced these issues into the public domain.”

Parsons added: “The best practice referenced in the report might work for awhile and it must be representative of Sydenham/Walpole Island St.Clair but we are concerned that history will repeat itself.

Used the media

Adamson said in her report that there was extensive evidence that all three boards of the CKHA “actively and repeatedly” utilized the media to present the position.

“Guilty as charged and I accept that responsibility, my board accepts that responsibility but at the end of the day that was the only way that this problem was going to be uncovered and the problem was going to be fixed,” Parsons said.

“We are on our way to getting that problem fixed now. It is because we had the support of an inquiring media and media that was prepared to dig deep. Regardless of the answer they found, they were prepared to dig deep and uncover the problems that we are all facing.”

Fundraising concerns

In her report, Adamson discussed the negative responses in both Chatham and Wallaceburg about fundraising for the Foundation of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and that there needs to be something done to restore the communities confidence and trust.

“We agree that that is the case, but we are not guilty,” Parsons said.

“We have reached out to the Foundation on two occasions to promote a positive fundraising environment. In 2015-16 we invited the Foundation to speak to a members meeting. In the same year, I participated with the CEO of the Foundation on a radio show to promote the latest campaign. In 2016-17 we invited the Foundation to speak to our board and to our membership at the AGM.”

Parsons added: “We have always spoken positively about staff and services at both sites. We were vigorously defending our staff at SDH against the unfair and unfounded criticism by medical and administrative leadership at CKHA. We have done our part and we need to apologize to no one for that.”

Oversight in finances

Laying blame to all three boards, Adamson references a lack of oversight regarding the “serious financial deficit” accumulating over time at the CKHA and the current negative fiscal situation for the budget in its entirety.

Parsons said the SDH in “not guilty” when it comes to this issue.

“Every time we spoke out, we were put down by staff and other boards,” Parsons said.

“‘You must not trust our administration’ they said. ‘You must not have any confidence in our staff’ they said. I argued for more oversight responsibilities at executive meetings and was not supported. In fact my concerns were dismissed. This board raised that very issue at the March 31st meeting and in written speaking notes, which were to be included in the minutes, we were ignored. I raised the issue post March 31st with a member of the LHIN executive and he advised me that it was not a big problem, that it could easily be resolved. This is the deficit and the growing deficit.”

Parsons said immediately after the break up of the Alliance, he spoke with the LHIN.

“We are concerned with our fiduciary responsibility to get a balanced budget and we are able to meet, we are not able to resolve. He said ‘don’t worry about it, that is the smallest of our problems,'” Parsons said.

“So I think this board has done it’s level best to address that problem and move forward. While all three boards have been blamed, I don’t think we need to share much of that blame for what we have done.”

Resource allocation to SDH

Adamson said all three CKHA boards have been complicit in administration’s “long pattern of decision making” regarding resource allocations for Wallaceburg’s campus, that has resulted in “the deterioration of SDH’s physical plan and related ability to provide the program and services to it’s community.”

“All boards for the lifetime of the Alliance have been responsible to ensuring that all the physical buildings were taken care of,” Parsons said. “We know from our membership meetings as much as 10 years ago that we were drawing concerns and addressing these concerns. First with Ken Tremblay and then secondly with Colin Patey, about not enough money being put into this building to keep it up to code and up to its proper usefulness and life expectancy.”

Parsons added: “So boards prior to 2015, guilty but with an explanation. Boards since 2015. Not guilty. This lack of resources and repairs have been a constant theme at members meetings. Boards and staff said they were doing a lot and presented a report showing millions of dollars spent but they just weren’t listening to the community. The staff had another game plan for our building. We raised these issues at tri-board meetings and an Imagine task force meetings. We had to reconvene the task force and has not met for a number of years.”

Parsons said the past chair arranged for a direct meeting with the Ministry of Health, which resulted in a tour in mid-2015 with the Ministry.

“The current board recognized this as a priority and raised it at tri-board meetings and at SDH meetings and at members meetings throughout 2016-17,” he said. “We have worked separately to get as much information as we can about this building and about what we can do with the building. We have been dismissed at every turn.”

Parsons said the SDH board met with the consultant who produced a building assessment/facility assessment report on SDH.

“Their reports don’t say that this is a building not worth putting money into,” Parsons said.

“They never said that. I have read it front to cover. It never said that, but apparently in a news article in the Chatham paper, the CEO is quoted as saying that’s what the reports say. Nonsense.”

Lack of cooperation

In her report, Adamson said all Alliance directors have not shown the ability or the preparedness to cooperate and reconcile.

“I think it is public record what this board has tried to do,” Parsons said.

“It is a public record that we have been open and ready to meet and do whatever we can to resolve the problem. It’s just unfortunate that we get put into the same boat as other boards who have not been likewise. I do take some comfort in the fact both of those sentences start with for the most part. So there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

In terms of wanting to meet, Parsons said the SDH board has always been available.

“The PGH and SJH boards have declined our invitation. They have been obstructionist from the get go,” Parsons said.

“We actually tried to convene a second meeting and got the same response. So in terms of trying to get this ship right, trying to move this forward, trying to resolve our governance issues, we had nobody to talk to and we had no staff supporting us. It was a difficult thing for us to do”.

Parsons added: “There is no question at the end of the day, we weren’t able to do anything towards that and if there is any blame to be coming on this end, I don’t think it is blame that we deserve. We have done our best to work with the other two boards, work with the administration and to get the right thing done.”

Bottom line

Parsons said despite not agreeing with everything in the report, they are looking forward to a supervisor coming in and taking over.

“So while you have heard me say a lot of constructive comments, that is not our bottom line. Our bottom line is we welcome the supervisor,” he said.

“It is the way forward to ensure that the right things get done. I think we have been on the right side of that page since we came into office. I hope and my board hopes that we will continue to be on the right side of that page post appointment of the supervisor.”

The SDH board is expecting to hear news about the provincially appointed supervisor at any time.

Dr. Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health and Long Term Care, said in a letter to all three boards he was giving CKHA notice of his intention to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that the hospital supervisor be appointed.

Hoskins said the appointment would take place after August 24.