By Adrian Duyzer
Published December 03, 2008
An article in the Globe and Mail, Health care in a bucket with fries, came to the attention of a RTH reader recently, who sent it along for us to check out (thanks, by the way!)
The article is about the recent renaming of a ward in McMaster's Children's Hospital to The Colonel Sanders Inpatient Unit, because of a $1-million donation to the hospital from the Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization (Picard says the ward's nickname is now the chicken wing).
Picard isn't happy about the renaming:
Childhood obesity is a serious, pressing health problem, so what message are we sending by renaming part of a pediatric hospital after a fast-food icon?
Worse yet, among those treated in The Colonel Harland Sanders Inpatient Unit are children with eating disorders. The irony is palpable, and the resigned acceptance tragic.
The broader question that needs to be asked is: When and why did it become acceptable for public institutions to prostitute themselves in this manner?
The obvious response to Picard is that KFC's money is just as good as anyone else's money, and that the health care system badly needs whatever money it can get. As "doug M" from Calgary wrote in comments to the article, "either it's OK to accept private sector money, or it is not".
On the face of it, that seems like a convincing argument. Harland David "Colonel" Sanders led an interesting life, eventually settling in Mississauga when he was about 75 years old. He established two organizations, the Colonel Harland Sanders Trust and Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, that contribute to many good causes (including other health care facilities in Canada).
From that perspective - the legacy of a man who may have loved this country - what's wrong with accepting the money and putting up a plaque in gratitude?
Picard counters this argument forcefully, pointing out that it would be no less generous to give the money without the branding, but far more honourable.
"When you cut through the rhetoric," he writes, "these naming opportunities, these associations with children's hospitals, are done for a single reason: to make fast food more palatable and bolster the bottom line of these corporations."
What do you think? Is this shamelessly inappropriate advertising, or a generous contribution to society worthy of being recognized the way McMaster has done so?
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