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MUSH Oversight Coming Says Marin
December 12, 2012 permalink
Speaking in Sudbury, Ontario ombudsman André Marin said expansion of his mandate to the MUSH sector is inevitable.
Reach to expand: Ombudsman
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin believes it's a matter of when, not if, the Province of Ontario gives his office the authority to oversee institutions in the so-called MUSH sectors.
They include municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, police services and children's aid societies.
Ontario can't afford not to bring those organizations under his purview, Marin said in an editorial board meeting Tuesday with The Sudbury Star.
He was in Sudbury to speak to Greater Sudbury council at its invitation.
Marin was sharply critical of council earlier this year for not co-operating with his investigation into closed door meetings, calling Sudbury's council one of the least co-operative he has ever worked with.
Ontario is the only province where the MUSH sectors don't fall under an ombudman's oversight.
“Every other province can afford it,” Marin told The Sudbury Star.
In Ontario, the provincial government transfers $16 billion a year to hospitals, said Marin.
“That's larger than our national defence budget, and there's no outside checks and balances. If you have a problem with a hospital, where do you go?”
People unhappy with the treatment of loved ones can appeal to a hospital's chief executive officer or patient advocate “who's on the payroll of the hospital,” said Marin.
If you complain to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care about hospitals and nursing homes, they'll “send you back to those places,” said Marin.
He spoke with Premier Dalton McGuinty about ombudsman oversight over the MUSH sectors before the release of his annual report in the spring. In that report, he called again for the province to extend his office's jurisdiction to the MUSH sectors.
Marin said the premier told him at that time: “'Andre, it's not a question of if, but it's a question of when you go there. Let's start talking about it.' So, there was real genuine movement to go in that direction,” Marin told The Star.
“Now, of course, the legislature was prorogued. In politics anything can happen, but we did enter the discussion over which letters of MUSH have priority.”
Marin told McGuinty he believes the Children's Aid Society, hospitals and long-term care residences are because they care for the most vulnerable members of society.
The “child protection system, hospitals, long-term care, all deal with very vulnerable people with no place to go. So those are the three letters that have precedence, in my view.”
When asked what it would take to get the province to add those responsibilities to his list of duties, Marin said: “I think this is something the public wants very much and, again, if you look at the experiences of all the other provinces, everybody else can afford it. Why can we not afford it in Ontario?”
Marin said officials with the MUSH sector had long opposed ombudsman oversight, but he has seen them soften that position in the last year or so.
“I think they recognize it's inevitable,” he said.
Representatives of his office have been asked to speak to conferences held by Children's Aid Societies and to hospital executives.
“People sense it's inevitable and it's going to come, so they might as well start getting with the program,” Marin told the Star. “So, I'm pleased to hear that. We've only been fighting for it for 37 years, so it's a good evolution.”
Earlier this week, Dr. Denis Roy, president and chief executive officer of Health Sciences North, said he would not object to the ombudsman having oversight of his institution.
In Quebec, where Roy practised medicine for decades before coming to Sudbury three years ago, people unsatisfied with hospital care could appeal to Quebec's version of an ombudsman.
“I've lived through it, so it wouldn't bother me,” said Roy. “I think perhaps one would be fine.”
Roy said he was asked the same question when Ontario included hospitals in freedom of information legislation this year, something that has been done in his native Quebec for five or six years.
“What I'm saying is, I've had to live through it, and despite the turmoil at the beginning, it calms down and nothing happens afterwards unless something (serious) happens.”
Source: Sudbury Star