Capital Health’s poor performance

I am glad that the strike at Capital Health has been averted, but I am mad as hell that it had to go down to the final minutes.

I wish I could believe that it had to play out this way, but there is too much history which suggests that our health authorities, and this one in particular, move at their own speed.

As I mentioned previously, their history of negotiating nursing contracts seems to be less about sincere, positive negotiation than a war of attrition where they attempt to wear down the other side by taking so long (18, 20, 24 months) to come to an agreement. This type of prolonged negotiation may provide job security for the HR types but stresses out the employees and the public. Employees don’t want to go on strike. When they’re on strike they’re the ones without an income. The administrators don’t miss a paycheque or perk. Since they don’t suffer any financial hardship there is no impetus or incentive for them to act differently.

We are dealing with public funds and the public welfare, and the Legislature should get off its comfortable ass and act. Rather than rewrite legislation to take rights away from one group, the Legislature should share the pain by forcing financial penalties on any administrators who cannot avoid disruptions to essential public services, like the delivery of health care.

In radio interviews, Capital Health’s president, Chris Power, has said that she doesn’t believe health care executives are over-paid. She feels their pay is in line with the private sector. Well, the private sector has to perform and achieve targeted results. If they fail, they’re out. That doesn’t happen with health care executives. What targets are they meeting? If their hospitals fail to meet national standards of care there is no negative impact on their incomes or careers. Why not?

These people have shown us they are in no rush to do anything. For example, in 2007 Capital Health came up with their Promise and Milestones documents, which they hope to achieve by 2013. Six years! Canada has won wars in less time.

For 20 years they have allowed an entire floor to sit empty in the Dartmouth General Hospital. In those decades how many Nova Scotians have had treatments delayed because there was no bed available?

The province has a target to off-load patients from ambulances in 20 minutes 90% of the time. Capital Health is nowhere near meeting provincial targets. In their fourth quarter report for 2010-2011 they admitted to off-loading patients in 133 minutes. That was up from the 114 minutes it took in the previous quarter. Capital Health promised to improve that by 10% per quarter. At 10% per quarter it will take them until September 2015 to achieve the provincial health department’s targets. That’s not performance. And what if they don’t achieve their own target? Aside from the pain and suffering and inconvenience to patients, what is the impact on executives collecting six-figure incomes? I don’t understand why the Minister and the Premier think it’s acceptable for this health authority to flaunt the regulations this way. Allowing public servants to re-set loose, self-regulating, multi-year soft targets is one more example that this administrative structure is not operating in the public interest.

This strike has been averted and now everyone will appear on-camera looking relieved and promising to get back to normal as soon as possible. Well, whose fault is it that it went this far? And whose fault is it that so many patients and families were stressed and negatively impacted by a dragged-out negotiation process?

It’s time for the Minister and the Premier to fix this system by bringing about radical change.


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