Health Coalitions worry Ross Memorial could abandon acute care with new bill
Lawyers for hospital say they're just trying to modernize language
The Board of Governors of Ross Memorial Hospital have once again — after a failed attempt in 2020 — to change their governing legislation – which would eliminate community memberships and, according to two health coalitions, possibly acute care services at the local hospital in the future.
MPP Laurie Scott has brought a private bill forward in the Ontario Legislature to support the effort, something the Kawartha Lakes and Ontario Health Coalitions are sounding alarms about – especially given the timing right before the provincial election.
Titled “PR 65: An Act Respecting the Ross Memorial Hospital, 2022” the bill is to be voted on for a second reading tomorrow (Thursday) morning at the Ontario Legislature. If the vote passes it moves to Third Reading and Royal Ascent, all community memberships in the hospital would be terminated, and Kawartha Lakes would lose its elected hospital board and end up with a self-appointing board.
A similar bill was proposed in 2020, known as “Private Bill 21,” which saw hundreds of people gathered in a meeting at the Lindsay Recreation Centre determined to stop it from passing. It did not end up becoming law because when COVID struck, private bills were not a necessity, and it was not sent through the legislative process.
Co-chair of Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition Zac Miller and executive director of Ontario Health Coalition Natalie Mehra said the new bill being proposed has some changes from the original, changes they advocated for, but the bill still leaves issues “hanging in the wind and is still a big threat to the community and the hospital going forward.”
RMH currently operates under a community governance model, with approximately 750 annual and lifetime members. These members have the power to elect board members at each annual general meeting. Section 2 of the proposed 2020 bill and Section 2 of this bill remain the same.
“With this change,” said Mehra, “the only members of the corporation would be the board, but by the non-profit laws in Ontario, you have to have the members elect the board, so if you eliminate everyone else from being a member, the board can appoint itself rather than have oversight and opinion by citizens for which Ross Memorial Hospital serves.”
Their second concern was wording in Section 3, which could open the possibility of eliminating acute care and in-patient services.
In the previous bill, RMH defined the objects of the corporation in this section as “to establish, equip…conduct and manage a hospital or health facilities that may include, without limitation, active treatment programs and services.” The alarm the Health Coalitions brought forward was the “or” in that sentence, because they said that could mean it had the right to eliminate what made the hospital a hospital and turn it into “health facilities” because the phrasing “manage a hospital or health facilities” would allow them to change what kind of title RMH falls under.
In the new version of this bill, at the wish of KLHC/OHC, the word “or” was changed to “and,” meaning the hospital could not be disregarded. A clause that would have allowed the hospital to make change future legislation without having to go back to the Ontario Legislature was also eliminated, but there was something else the Coalition still expressed two concerns over in Section 3.
Miller and Mehra said RMH is a provider of acute inpatient care, and it says so on their website, but in the bill it is worded as “active treatment programs and services.” RMH officials told the Coalitions that phrase was their wording of “acute inpatient care,” but Miller and Mehra could not find any legal definition of the “active treatment” phrase, so even if they said it meant acute inpatient care in context, it was still on paper an ambiguous term that opens the door for the elimination of acute inpatient care. They revealed this phrase was not changed even at the request of the Coalitions.
Miller also said when the bill says “programs and services may include”, saying “may include” instead of “shall include” is an out for them, because “’may’ is a legal term where they are not actually committed to running any sort of laundry list of services that they do list in their bill.”
“Their lawyers said the bill was simply to modernize the language from 1903, or to quote, ‘housekeeping,’” said Miller. “This is anything but housekeeping. It’s fundamentally changing the way the hospital is run.”
The Health Coalitions are additionally concerned about how they feel this bill is being snuck through. Miller said when a private bill goes forward in the Ontario Legislature, the process they must follow, which they did for the previous bill, is to give notice either online or in their community newspaper (Kawartha Lakes This Week is the weekly paper RMH uses, according to Miller), as well as be printed in the Ontario Gazette, a publication produced by the government of Ontario that outlines what bills are going forward and notices that have been passed, allowing community members the ability and time to discuss or object to propositions to see if something needs to be changed. In this instance, however, Miller searched and could not find any notice of the new bill in Kawartha Lakes This Week nor the Ontario Gazette.
Mehra said tomorrow, on April 28, the day PR 65 is going in for a second reading, the Legislature is going to be shut down afterwards and May 4 will be the formal start of the provincial election. “In the last days of this government they’re trying to push through this bill with no regular process and no community notice and refusing to do the two remaining things we asked. For me it raises a lot of red flags.”
“The hospital has said previously that we are just creating a stir in the public for no reason and spreading misinformation,” said Miller. “But we are presenting the bill and it’s clearly what it says it is.”
“I’ve analyzed legislation for 25 years,” said Mehra, “and right from the very first meeting when we first talked to the hospital, I found the way they described this to be fundamentally dishonest.”
Miller and Mehra want the community to contact Laurie Scott at or call her at 705-324-6654, as well as RMH President Kelly Isfan at asking Scott to withdraw the bill and to voice concern. You can also contact Zac Miller at or at 289-356-7537 for additional questions.