Bay Observer, Can You Do Better?

Local weekly misreports a rally protesting health care funding cuts as a protest against the creation of a pediatric emergency ward.

By Ted Mitchell
Published March 30, 2009

More on health care media spin, this week courtesy of the Bay Observer.

I can't be too hard on them, seeing as there is a progressive piece by Peggy Chapman in the current March 27, 2009 issue noting the Burlington lift bridge's unfriendliness to pedestrians and cyclists.

But in a photo section on page 12 titled "Rally City", we find the following caption under a photo of some people carrying placards (sorry, not available online):

The Hamilton Health Coalition stood outside of provincial cabinet Minister Ted McMeekin's constituency office to protest the creation of a pediatric emergency ward at McMaster Medical Centre, as well as job cuts that have been announced by local hospitals in a bid to balance their budgets. Mr. McMeekin was not at the rally at his Waterdown office. He was in Hamilton at a provincial announcement to increase child tax credits and investments in low income housing.

Reading this, you might be tempted to conclude that the HHC hates children; or maybe you're scratching your head thinking, Pardon, they're protesting what?

I wasn't at the rally, but have it from a reliable source that nothing related to children was mentioned. The HHC is primarily upset by provincial funding cuts, and the kneejerk response hospitals make in finding those savings by cutting nurses instead of, say, administration, or engaging doctors to reduce wasteful use of resources.

Perhaps somebody also had a placard protesting closing McMaster to adults, as the ABC plan intends to close Mac's adult emergency room, ICU, CCU, and medical beds and spread out these services elsewhere, totaling $500 million in new building infrastructure.

Money that might be better spent on patient care.

Superficially you might buy the HHS claim that they need to make room for a dedicated children's hospital by removing all the non-pregnant adults. But knowing some facts, that version is ridiculous.


  1. Mac already has a Children's hospital (big blue sign, hard to miss), with a pediatric emergency ward that is shared with adults.

  2. Children's visits make up 1/3 of the total ER visits. A few years ago, McMaster tried to functionally separate the ER into adults and children. That failed, apparently due to inadequate volume of children's visits and subsequent staffing problems. At this scale, dedicated equals inefficient. That's still true today and for the foreseeable future.

  3. There are empty beds in the pediatric ward that are empty because of - wait for it - not enough funding and available staff.

  4. At McMaster, there are plenty of administrative offices taking up space which could be used for patients.

  5. Hospitals can build new space if they need it. All the other ones are doing it, but at Mac this was never an option.

I can't imagine why anyone would turn the Hamilton Health Coalition's minor point - protesting closing McMaster to adults at a stupendous cost with very questionable benefits - into protesting the 'creation' of a pediatric emergency ward. Intentional or ignorant, both options are embarrassing.

Bay Observer, can you do better? An investigative story on this subject would make it right.

Ted Mitchell is a Hamilton resident, emergency physician and sometimes agitator who recently completed a BEng at McMaster University. He is fascinated by aspects of our culture that are harmful, but avoid serious public discussion.

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By Harbour Watcher (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2009 at 12:06:08

They may have the time now to do a better job - just read that they are scaling back to a monthly instead of a weekly.

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