This week the leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party, Gary Burrill, called on Premier Stephen McNeil to apologize for the $250,000 purchase of furniture for the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s executive offices.
I understand the outrage, but it’s directed to the wrong person. The Premier didn’t spend this money, the health authority did. They took it from the money the province provides for the administration and delivery of health care. The person responsible for this expenditure is NSHA President and CEO Janet Knox. Public anger and frustration should be directed to her. It was her decision.
To blame the Premier is playing politics with health care. When the NDP formed a government, they didn’t apologize for the 30 percent one-year jump in the number of executives earning over $100,000 (that was in fiscal 2012), so its disingenuous to now be outraged by this $250,000.
Put blame were it is due.
Knox is not a budget hawk. She has a history of administrative extravagance. When she was president of the Annapolis Valley District Health Authority (AVDHA) in Kentville administrative costs were 60 percent above the national average. In an attempt at belt-tightening, AVDHA under Knox, reduced access to x-rays in clinics in Wolfville and Berwick; cut 2.5 ER nurse positions; and reduced two more nurse positions in other departments. The AVDHA also reduced the Valley Regional Hospital’s food services budget by $100,000. While cafeteria hours were reduced – impacting hospital staff and visitors – Knox continued a subsidized lunch program for 160 white collar staff at the health authority executive offices across town. Two snacks a day, plus two choices of lunch entrees, are trucked across Kentville from the hospital to executive offices. This also requires food services staff be on-site to dish out snacks, meals and drinks to these office workers.
Knox’s history is of executive indulgence, so it should be no surprise that in the week when people in Cape Breton complain about a lack of wheelchairs and other care, we learn Knox had authorized the purchase of $250,000 in office chairs, sofas and boardroom fixtures. We can rest assured that the NSHA executive team (seen here: http://www.nshealth.ca/about-us/executive-team ) aren’t inconvenienced.
So, rather than play politics over on-going gaps in judgment, blame the right person. Janet Knox has the titles, pay and perks and should wear the responsibility for her choices.
Of course it’s difficult to direct complaints to the NSHA since no phone number is listed for the executive offices. The NSHA website lists numbers for services and enquiries about hospitals, but not for the executives. They do give a mailing address:
Nova Scotia Health Authority Provincial Office
90 Lovett Lake Court, Suite 201
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3S 0H6
And this laughable email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck complaining. Health executives don’t entertain public complaints. Instead they treat any contact as “feedback” which is then interpreted to fit their messaging.