Ontario’s Ombudsman has released “The LHIN Spin,” a report on his investigation into the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network’s use of community engagement in its decision-making process. In the report, Ombudsman André Marin calls on the province to improve the accountability and transparency of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) across the province.
Mr. Marin found the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN illegally closed several meetings to the public. While ostensibly closed for the purpose of “educating” its board members, the meetings were related to two hospital restructuring plans that involved Hamilton Health Sciences and the Niagara Health System.
The investigation was conducted by the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT), which conducted interviews with representatives from several LHINs across the province, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care officials, and local stakeholders. The investigation was launched in response to about 60 public complaints alleging that the LHIN had failed to adequately consult the public about the Hamilton and Niagara restructuring decisions. The Ombudsman found that “community engagement,” while required by law, was “undefined and inconsistent.”
The Ombudsman’s investigation focused on the LHIN’s decision-making process and how it could be improved but not on the details or implications of the restructuring plans themselves. His office oversees the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, as well as the LHINs, but has no direct jurisdiction over hospitals.
For the full report, see “The LHIN Spin,” August 10, 2010, atwww.ombudsman.on.ca. See also the press release “Ombudsman Finds Hamilton-Niagara Region LHIN’s ‘Clandestine’ Meetings Illegal; Urges Province to Increase Transparency of All LHINs,” August 10, 2010, at www.ombudsman.on.ca.