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Neil and Tabatha Haskett
August 9, 2012 permalink
Sudbury Northern Life profiles Neil and Tabatha Haskett, focusing on their efforts to get accountability for children's aid societies and hospitals.
Local couple pushes for ombudsman oversight
2,539 complaints not investigated last year
A Sudbury couple are on a mission to bring independent oversight to Ontario municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals, known collectively as the MUSH sector.
The same kind of oversight is also needed for children's aid societies, long-term care facilities and the police, say Neil and Tabatha Haskett, who lead the Sudbury chapter of the Ontario Coalition for Accountability.
The group, which often holds rallies in the Greater Sudbury area, is pushing for Ontario ombudsman André Marin to have the right to investigate complaints in these areas.
“I know some amazing foster parents, I know some good doctors, and all my experiences in the hospital have been outstanding,” Neil said.
“We know these front-line people do provide some great services, but every once in a while, somebody does make a mistake. Management, more often than not, doesn't seem willing to allow that to be dealt with properly, if at all.”
That's where Marin should come in, he said.
In his yearly report, published in June, the ombudsman himself dedicates several pages to stressing the importance of being able to investigate the publicly-funded organizations listed above.
Marin said he turned down a record 2,539 complaints in these sectors in 2011-2012, up from 1,963 in the previous year.
“Unfortunately, there are many organizations that provide direct and vital public services to Ontarians, without the important check and balance of ombudsman oversight,” Marin wrote in his report.
“I have followed my ombudsman predecessors in repeatedly calling for modernization of my mandate to include the MUSH sector. The reason is simple. MUSH organizations have a profound and immediate impact on the lives and welfare of individual citizens.
“They impact Ontarians where they work, live and play, and when they are at their most vulnerable.”
The only area of the MUSH sector the ombudsman is allowed to investigate is closed-door municipal council meetings.
He's also allowed to oversee the special investigations unit (SIU), an organization which investigates events involving police and civilians that have resulted in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault. Ontario has the least independent oversight of any province when it comes to these areas, Marin said.
While he isn't allowed to investigate complaints about any of these organizations, ombudsmen in other provinces are allowed to investigate at least some of them.
The Hasketts said most of their advocacy has ended up focusing on long-term care facilities and hospitals.
“With children's aid, people are on the verge of losing their children,” Neil said.
“If people are losing their children for something they didn't do, what else can these people do? Most of them can't afford the legal fees that are associated with a child protection case. Some of them can cost upwards of $200,000 to $300,000.”
When it comes to hospitals and long-term care facilities, basically the only thing people can do is complain to the organizations' board of directors, Neil said.
“They're battling a corporate machine that's well-oiled, and has dealt with people like them in the past.”
The recent death of a four-month-old prematurely born baby boy, who was under the care of foster parents selected by the local children's aid society, prompted the Ontario Coalition for Accountability to hold a rally in downtown Sudbury.
While the death is under investigation by the coroner, police and the children's aid society, the ombudsman should also be allowed to investigate such cases, Tabatha said.
“He'll be able to find those cracks and follow the paper trails,” she said.
In terms of ongoing problems at Health Sciences North related to the ALC situation, Neil said Marin could act as an advocate for patients, and provide recommendations for how things could be done better.
Neil said he was also interested to hear that Hamilton Health Sciences CEO Murray Martin will conduct a peer review of Health Sciences North.
The peer review will focus on ways of dealing with the hospital's deficit and its ALC challenges, among other areas.
“Why are we putting these things in place when we have an investigator that everybody trusts, that does a fantastic job?” Neil said. “He sees through the BS. He sees the substantiated complaints.”
While Marin is unable to investigate complaints in these sectors right now, Tabatha encourages the public to contact him anyway, as a record is kept of all complaints.
Source: Sudbury Northern Life