July 9


-- Trish Douma Regional Director for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC)

Dear Sir: It was with both surprise and disappointment that I read the recent announcement that the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance has clawed its way back to a financial surplus, after only six months ago informing the public of a $6-million deficit.
As a representative of the union that represents over 400 of the Alliance's employees, I have to shake my head when reading that Mr. Tremblay credits factors such as the recommendations of the Deloitte Report, variable staffing patterns and absenteeism management for bringing finances into line. I find it shameful to give credit to a report that included little to no employee consultation and did not consider ramifications or consequences of recommendations such as the closure of the medicine floor at Sydenham.

Mr. Tremblay also appears to be wearing rose-coloured glasses on his other two contributing factors. Variable staffing patterns have translated into strategies like higher nurse-to-patient ratios and temporary departmental shutdowns -both sacrificing patient care and staffing hours. Absenteeism has been lowered, yes, but only through a borderline abusive Attendance Support Program, which for the majority of the time seems only to serve the purpose of frustrating long-term employees who use sick days for legitimate causes.

The Alliance openly trumpets itself as one of Canada's top 100 employers, but fails to even come close to achieving true public transparency. While I recognize the need for a publicly funded institution like a hospital to remain in the black numbers, the Alliance should be ashamed of publicly boasting about this. After throwing the lives of many of its Sydenham Campus employees into a state of anxiousness and worry by announcing the closure of the entire medicine floor -a move for which layoff notices have not even gone out yet, almost six months after the initial announcement -the Alliance should be spending its time, money and energy searching for ways to truly serve and understand the needs of its dedicated employees, not writing news releases about surpluses.

There is an old saying that "talk is cheap." The employees of CKHA know this first hand after seeing their employer present itself one way in the media, but simply roll over on them in times of trouble or hardship.

It's time that the public realizes that it shouldn't believe everything it reads in the newspaper.