EDITOR - TODD LIHOU: City council getting involved in hospital affairs

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Kinda looks like the city overstepped on this one.

At their meeting last week councillors passed a motion asking for top brass at the Cornwall Community Hospital to report to city hall post haste.

The reason? Changes to the pathology laboratory at the hospital will result in job losses.

At the council meeting Coun. Andre Rivette suggested up to eight people will be out of work as pathology services are consolidated among 16 acute-care hospitals that make up the so-called Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA).

The hospital, a couple of days later, issued a press release confirming job cuts are on the table, but only went as far as predicting four technical staff positions would be eliminated.

The truth, as it always is, is likely somewhere in between.

Of course the decision is unpopular, because no one wants to see individuals out of work.

The press release the hospital sent out after city council's decision last week was full of spin. The headline on the release read: "EORLA works with Cornwall Community Hospital to enhance pathology service."

Why is it nearly every time we enhance something a person loses their job?

Anyway, after two lengthy paragraphs filled with a metric tonne of jargon the hospital eventually gets around to confirming the job losses and that those affected will be treated fairly and with respect.

Rivette and others at city hall make the point the municipality and city residents have provided millions of dollars to the hospital over the years for equipment and ongoing reconstruction efforts.

"We were funding a fully-operational hospital and now this thing is being taken apart," he said. "This is very disturbing."

It's not the first time the hospital has had to make a painful decision. Last year Rivette pointed to the microbiology department that was shuttered, resulting in waits for patients suffering from things like bladder infections and strep throat for test results.

Rivette suggested doctors are prescribing meds without test results, which can lead to the compromising of antibiotics over time.

All valid complaints, in my opinion.

The problem, though, is it's really none of city hall's business.

Of course city hall, and council, have a moral responsibility to act as a traffic cop of sorts, making sure everyone within the municipal borders is acting in the best interests of local residents.

And if I am making personal donations to an agency, I want to know that my money is being spent wisely on a service that will at the very least be maintained, if not augmented – so Rivette and his allies probably have a right to be upset.

But what would happen if the roles were reversed? Suppose the city had made a decision to cut (ha!) some of its expenditures and the hospital, or another local agency, demanded answers.

Suppose that agency even went as far as to demand an audience with the city to rake municipal officials over the coals.

The response from city council would have been somewhere between "no way" and "forget it."

A source tells me hospital CEO Jeanette Despatie was none too pleased with the antics at city hall.

She called Mayor Bob Kilger and the crux of the conversation was clear – what business is it of the city to demand explanations for what is essentially an internal hospital decision?

The hospital, in the interests of being cordial, will likely agree to the meeting.

But while a tongue-lashing from city councillors about more job losses in Cornwall might make everyone feel better, it won’t result in the four positions at the hospital being kept.

Organizations: Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association, Cornwall Community Hospital

Geographic location: Cornwall

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