Health care executives preserving their “entitlements”

Last Monday, the executives at Annapolis Valley District Health Authority (AVDHA) made an extraordinary, and for them, ill-timed announcement.

Their announcement was to cut cafeteria services at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville. Beginning in mid-June the cafeteria will be closed on weekends. I say this is an ill-timed decision for the executives at AVDHA because it ties in to the sense of privilege we are seeing with certain political elites.

During a 2005 investigation into his $750,000-a-year expenses as president of the Mint, former cabinet minister David Dingwall made one of the most infamous self-serving statements in Canadian history when he said, “I am entitled to my entitlements.”

More recently, Canadians have been shocked, outraged and disappointed – I’m being polite – at the expense revelations of senators Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy. And at the same time as the airwaves are full of citizen outrage, AVDHA president Janet Knox and her clutch of vice presidents, are cutting food services to visitors and family members of hospital patients, as well as a hot food service to hospital workers who are probably working 12-hour shifts, while maintaining their own perks. The perks I refer to are the subsidized lunch program AVDHA provides to the executive bunker in Kentville’s industrial park.

Every day, Monday to Friday, hot and cold lunches for the 160 people working in the bunker are prepared in the hospital kitchens and driven across town for these white-collar workers.

As I’ve said before I have no problem with hospitals serving food at cost in their cafeterias. I consider that part of our philosophy for universal health care. People don’t go to hospitals for a cheap meal, they’re there because of medical needs or, like a nurse, technician or doctor, they work in the hospital. However, providing a subsidized lunch to executives, while probably a taxable benefit, goes against the grain. They have decided they are entitled to their entitlements.

It’s not cheap to provide food, transportation and cafeteria staff for the exclusive use of these executives. So, if the hospital cafeteria is to be closed on weekends for what one presumes is a budgetary reason, wouldn’t it make more sense and better public relations to cut the executive perk first? But no, these executives have decided they are too important and too busy to go out for lunch, order in or brown bag it like everyone else. What other public servants get a subsidized lunch?

I can’t decide if this cut to the cafeteria, which will negatively impact several jobs, is arrogant, uncaring or illustrative of the tone-deafness of health care executives to the real needs of staff, patients and patient families. So long as this meal perk is provided to the executives they better not complain about the size of the health care budget, not when they make such self-serving decisions. This once again proves that the issues with health care are not how big the budget, but how those in charge choose to spend it.

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