By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Only days before Lakeridge Health announced its panel of experts who would be reviewing the emergency room operations and patient experience at the Oshawa hospital, activists initiated a petition calling for more action.
The emergency room review and the closer look at how the hospital handles patient complaints was launched in March following a social media explosion that saw hundreds of people come forward on a Facebook group (What happened to you at Lakeridge Health Oshawa) with complaints about their care at the hospital.
Kathryn McKissock is one of the driving forces behind the group, started after she says her daughter’s Kawasaki disease went undiagnosed following several visits to Lakeridge, some of which had her literally carrying her daughter in and out of the hospital.
She previously told The Oshawa Express that the review was nothing but damage control for the hosptial, and now she’s looking to take things a step further, starting a petition calling for a full review of Lakeridge’s operations to be undertaken by an outside consultant. The petition also calls on the province to levy penalties for wrongdoing at the hospital and to potentially bring in a process for staff and patients to submit complaints “without the fear or threat of reprimand.”
“This has been going on for decades now,” McKissock says. “All these complaints, where are they going? They’re not being replied to, they’re not being answered to and we’ve exhausted every other angle. We’ve tried every other way to do this – they’re just not replying to us.”
On April 7, Lakeridge announced it had appointed the four experts who would be undertaking the review, including: Marko D.M. Duic, chief of the department of emergency medicine at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket; Dawn Sidenberg, director of patient and family-centred care at Humber River Hospital; Mary Lynn MacMaster, recently a director of patient experience and quality at North York General Hospital; and Pat Rich, who recently served as an advisor for marketing and communications at the Canadian Medical Association.
“We’ve got some great people who have experience on the ground,” says Tom McHugh, Lakeridge’s interim president and CEO, adding the individuals are experts in their respective fields.
McHugh says the review will help to address ways for the hosptial to improve its interaction with patients in the ER, as well as over the Internet and social media.
“We take feedback from the community in a number of ways. We think the panel is just the right way to address this and we’re super excited to move forward,” he says.
However, McKissock says the experts, who are being paid by Lakeridge Health and were handpicked by the organization, will not be able to provide objective opinions on what changes are needed.
“The people that they’re hiring are not going to tell them that they are the problem, are they?” McKissock says. “We want somebody form the outside. An unaffiliated, impartial, third party person coming in to look over things so we know it’s actually a fair review.”
McHugh stressed that the panel would remain objective and that each of the individuals was brought in from outside the organization.
“These are external people who we’ve recruited through wide networks,” he says. “You have my commitment that they will be welcome to give their advice freely and to tell us some of the things we’re not doing right and we’re going to learn from this.”
McKissock also reached out to MPP Jennifer French, who has agreed to take the petition to Queen’s Park once the signatures are gathered. French also met with McHugh and other representatives late last week.
Speaking with The Express, French says its important to give a voice to these concerns and that a solution could be found in bringing together both external and internal parties.
“I think where the external and internal connect is going to be where we actually see that improvement,” she says.
“Our office supports families and community members on a regular basis that either come with concerns or come with various issues and we want to make sure that all of our parents and all of our families have faith in the system and get the care they need.”
As of The Express deadline, petition had already garnered over 200 signatures.