Chief decries lack of consultation, devastating effect of Midland hospital plan
Beausoleil First Nation Open Letter To Minister Of Health
February 10, 2016
Dr. Eric Hoskin
Minister of Health and Long Term Care
10th floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario, M7A 2C4
Re: LHIN Recommendations for Georgian Bay General Hospital
Greetings Minister Hoskins:
My name is Roland Monague and I am the elected Chief of Beausoleil First Nation at Christian Island, Ontario. We are a small remote community located 2 hours North of Toronto, and approximately 40 minutes to nearby Midland, Ontario. Access to my community is by ferry only and during the winter months when the ice has formed we travel via snowmobile, airboats and hover craft.
We are challenged so to speak when we need to access the mainland for our goods and services which includes visits to Health Care facilities.
Most recently we were made aware of the consultant’s report prepared for the North Simcoe LHIN that referenced 108 recommendations to examine factors that have contributed to the hospitals financial challenges. These recommendations will certainly devastate Beausoleil First Nation and its Health Care as we will be greatly impacted.
Public Consultations started occurring in early January 2016 in our neighboring townships to which we were invited for our feedback.
After hearing of the recommendations members of our community spoke out and immediately requested a public consultation session occur at our community. We at Beausoleil First Nation were never consulted on these recommendations nor were we ever consulted for feedback within the whole process. I find this appalling and neglectful considering First Nations in Ontario opposed LHIN when it was introduced in 2006 on the grounds that it was developed unilaterally and failed to recognize First Nations constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to self governance and jurisdiction in Health.
Of those recommendations the decision to discontinue Obstetrics and to stop the recruitment of a gynecologist has shattering impacts for our members whom now will need to travel a greater distance for care in nearby Orillia or Barrie.
Travel as previously stated for our members is by ferry and to access these services which is a 40 minute trip one way, then to sit and be confronted with wait times can equate to several hours, and then to finally be seen only to travel home to an awaiting ferry that at times may be off schedule resulting in a full day for one appointment. With the recommendations to access services at Orillia or Barrie it certainly may mean overnight stays just for one appointment creating severe hardships financially and emotionally.
Many of our women depend on this local service for tubal ligations, coloscopy, IUD insertions, and treatment for cervical cancer, endometrial biopsies, stress incontinence and a host of other services. The other services being relocated include pediatric surgery (tonsils, ear tubes, dental) all affecting First Nations children and other members who now need to travel to Orillia for this basic service.
As You may or may not be aware we have a full time EMS on Beausoleil First Nation and they face many challenges daily when transporting our members to the local GBGH. In the LHIN recommendations I spoke to it will include discontinuation of the obstetrics department. This means further travel for our EMS when mothers having babies need to get to a hospital when this service is discontinued at GBGH in Midland. This will mean further travel to Barrie or Orillia for our EMS who will be placed in very stressful situations should the mother not make it to a hospital requiring them to deliver on the side of a highway.
Minister Hoskins I am aware of the deficits faced by the Province and how the Premier believes creating new funding formulas to solve Provincial deficits is needed however its impacts to small rural hospitals in Ontario is setting them up for failure. These new cuts not only affect the grassroots members of the communities it services but will certainly affect the much needed physicians that provide CARE to our communities.
We at Beausoleil First Nation along with our neighboring townships came together to participate in a physician recruiting drive to recruit good physicians we were lacking at our hospital, these recommendations certainly discounts the hard work we worked together on to resolve this outstanding issue. These much needed health care providers will now need to relocate. Despite the findings of the report of abuse and neglect by hospital staff and physicians we still need these members who are overworked and challenged with stressful situations.
I believe placing our physicians in this position is even more stressful and this needs to be resolved through positive and meaningful discussions. Utilizing them as your shield in a cost cutting measure is poor decision making and overall poor leadership tactics by the Province. We need to now listen to the affected physicians and grassroots members whom will be affected by these changes and think strategically to use the tools in front of You to find alternate means in cost cutting measures as personally I feel a Consultant report can be very vague to the real underlying issues at hand.
The effects of the recommendations to us as First Nation leaders of our community and community advocates is never about money it is about LIFE. Our Elders and Ancestors make us think beyond today and its impacts but think ahead to those not yet born and we speak LOUDLY to ensure they have Voices now and into the future.
I am aware the Leamington Ontario hospital in 2014 were faced with the same concern and how the LHIN closed the obstetrical program however with strong public support and much effort the members were able to meet with You to have this decision reversed. We at Beausoleil First Nation invite You Mr. Minister to come to our community and spend a day or a few hours with us to witness first hand our challenges in accessing these basic services of Health care, I think then You would reassure yourself and Parliament to rethink the need for these services.
Minister Hoskins I attended and witnessed the signing of the Political Accord between Provincial Leaders and the Chiefs from Ontario and was very moved by your story and your upbringing with First Nations people living right in your backyard in Simcoe, Ontario. You stated it reopened your eyes to witness firsthand the issues and crisis’s faced by First Nations when it comes to health care. Minister I plead that You revisit these recommendations as it will certainly speak to the true testament you spoke about at the Assembly. I also attended the Meeting of the Ministers and Ontario First Nations leadership session in the fall of 2015. Although the Premier has provided a mandate to each Minister on the need for a Nation to Nation relationship with the First Peoples of this Province. I did ask the many Ministers in attendance to clearly define its meaning and am remaining very optimistic on its intent.
Clearly the opportunity to the one issue of health care sits in front of you not only as a First Nation concern but overall a grassroots Ontario concern and hope that we provide a wholistic approach to the recommendations prior to implementation.
Thank You Minister Hoskins I will pray to the Creator that he provides you the tools to look at this matter with much compassion.
In the Spirit of our Woman, Children and Our Elders:
Chief Roland Monague