McDonell provides clarity on his position on hiring practices at Cornwall Community Hospital

February 26, 2012

After reading the editorial in today’s Standard Freeholder, I want to offer further clarity regarding Cornwall Community Hospital and my position on resolving an issue that relates to both the health and tolerance of our community.

Over the past number years, the issue of employment equity has been brewing in the community and has erupted with the anger unfairly targeted at the Cornwall Community Hospital. I have reviewed the 1986 French Languages Services Act (FLSA) and discussed the issues with the hospital’s CAO and employees. The act clearly states that the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs is responsible for administering the application of the FLSA. While I don’t like to insinuate that the recent events have impacted the interpretation of the legislation, I now understand that the Minister has clearly put the responsibility on the Board of the CCH to develop and implement the administration and hiring policies that best serve the needs of the community. This seems to me to be different from the Board’s current understanding of the Act. I know the Board is working hard to balance their interpretation of the Act against the needs of the staff, the community, and their first priority of providing the best healthcare possible. I believe that recent events demand that the Board work with the community to develop new policies that will better enable them to provide the best healthcare possible. We in Ontario pay more for healthcare than anyone else in Canada; we deserve the best healthcare our dollars can provide.

Our party’s view is that some percentage of the front line staff should be capable of working in both official languages and that that percentage should be sufficient to address French and English-speaking patients and their families in their mother tongues across all shifts. How the CCH meets the criteria is not covered by political positions, but by best practices on which we defer to them. I have said before that withholding donations is dangerous and will only hurt our community, and perhaps someone very close to us. I also understand that sometimes the only way to get the message across is to impact funding, and I would hope the Board is listening. The community is clearly asking for a change in the hiring and promotion policies that will open up all but the designated positions to the 75% of the community’s population and 96% of the province’s population who are not fluently bilingual. We all know that this area of Eastern Ontario is under-serviced when it comes to doctors and medical professions, and it benefits no one to accept policies that contribute to the problem.

The following is my letter to the editor in Saturday’s Standard-Freeholder:

It is disappointing to see the Cornwall Community Hospital come under fire as it carries out its mandate of providing quality care to our region. Under the current system, the hospital depends on donations to meet our community’s healthcare needs, and I ask people to continue to be generous, as they have been in the past. The highest quality of healthcare is what we expect and deserve, when we or our loved ones, are in need. I know that this is the primary focus of the board of the CCH, and it’s what the community demands.

On Thursday, I had the chance to discuss the issue with the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, the Minister for Francophone Affairs. She offered her support to the hospital Board, as they fulfill their mandate of providing first class healthcare to the community, which includes the requirement of bilingual services to our Francophone friends and neighbours. The Minister also pointed out that it is up to the board to develop and implement the administration and hiring policies that best service the needs of the community.

The primary focus of the Cornwall Community Hospital must be to provide excellent healthcare, but as the region’s largest employer, it must also address the social and economic needs of the entire region. This no doubt requires the need to designate a percentage of the front line positions with specific verbal and written bilingual skills, but opens up the rest of the front line, logistics and administration positions to the best qualified people the hospital can attract. Let us also remember, that our region is serviced by four Francophone-only healthcare clinics to enhance our network of bilingual clinics and hospitals.

Canada has a severe shortage of healthcare professionals and our region is above the provincial average in the number of residents who do not have a family doctor. As Dr. Tombler pointed out, clear, transparent and logical hiring policies will allow our region to attract the best doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals that our Ontario universities and colleges graduate each year, many of them from in this region. I look forward to working with the community partners to ensure that we have access to the best healthcare system in the province.