General News · 17th September 2010
I met Jeremy Morrow in the ferry line-up yesterday morning and he asked me if I knew what the hell was going on with the health centre and the CCHA as he had missed both board meetings in July and August due to work pressures and was also a bit at sea since he is new to the board. As he is bigger than me and the Morrow family is a welcome and valuable addition to Cortes I think I should give him my take on the unfortunate situation we are in despite my non-attendance at the same meetings. I have read the minutes of those two meetings.
I first applied to join the board at Kirstie’s suggestion a few years back and arrived for my first board meeting to find that the treasurer had resigned and things were in a bit of a mess accounting-wise. Keeping the accounts of an organization such as the CCHA is fairly onerous (just ask Izzy) and a lot to ask of any volunteer. It was fairly soon apparent to the board of the day that a part time bookkeeper and administrator was required so we hired our first part-time employee Sheila Hart who has since been replaced by Marilyn Fitzmaurice. Marilyn and her significant other (Bobo !!!) are also new and welcome additions to the island. Since the onset of Kirstie’s illness and the changes at the clinic that entailed Marilyn’s duties and responsibilities have markedly increased.
Ever since I came on the board I have been of the opinion that the CCHA is redundant which on the face of it is a strange position for a board member to hold, especially one who s a former chair of the board. Interestingly the present chair, Ed Safarik, was elected when he wasn’t even in the room or in fact even on the island. Paola volunteered him and Ed has probably not yet forgiven her. Nobody really wants these jobs as they are difficult and time consuming. This seems to me to be a strong indictment of the association and its present structure and mandate. Now I am a big fan of efficiency and simplicity and no fan of needless work and so I argued and continue to argue that the association sell its interest in the clinic (whatever that is as I have been informed that the seniors actually own the building) to the practitioners or else allow VIHA to assume responsibility for running the clinic. This second option is a non-starter as far as I know since VIHA told me when I was chair that they would not be prepared to do this. Therefore I think the association should seriously consider divestiture to the folks who are actually providing the service and let them get on with it. That would get a lot of cooks out of the kitchen and free up a lot of volunteers to do other things in the community. The Association if it wished to continue could then be a simple advocacy group for better health on the island. Question—why does the CCHA have more directors than VIHA? At least in part because they work cheap. What is abundantly clear is given a choice between having a doctor or having a board of directors and an association, having a doctor wins hands down.
The events of the last couple of months have certainly not persuaded me to change my views—in fact they seem to go a good way to making my case. The sense I get is that the community thinks that Kirstie has been unfairly treated by the CCHA. A number of people whose opinions I value have voiced this concern and for the record I share it. I think that the board at its July meeting mischaracterized Kirstie’s behaviour when it became clear that she was unable to work as abandoning her practice. It seems there was no contingency plan in place in the event of principal practitioners illness—all the money coming to Kirstie from VIHA appeared to cease when she was unable to submit time sheets because she was not working and had no hours to report. This certainly speaks to a lack of foresight on the part of both Kirstie and VIHA but nothing more than that. And VIHA certainly stepped up to the plate when the extent of the problem became clear.
I don’t really know what to say about the present situation except to say that it is unfortunate—I am not terribly sanguine about the ability or desire on the part of either Kirstie or the board issues that are clearly there. I consider myself a friend of both Kirstie and John as well as a friend of my fellow board members and I want to apologize to those members of the board (Ginny, Emilia, Jeremy, Rob, Izzy, and Ron) who are there in part at least because I invited them to apply. I did not envision this outcome and recognize it is a difficult time for all involved. I always it was strange that Kirstie (and Anita for that matter) was not on the board of the CCHA for the reason that she was a tenant and there were possible conflicts of interest in their positions. Who better to sit on a board dedicated to the health of the community than our health practitioners—better them than a logician who thinks that our island is populated by over-serviced hypochondriacs. Maybe we all get what we deserve and maybe the board’s emphasis is too heavily weighted to the commercial.
With regard to the board’s letter to the community there is a strong sense of it being unsatisfactory. I will say that the new funding model the board outlined in its letter is one I have argued against in the past as being unworkable for a volunteer board. But I have great confidence in Marilyn’s ability to administer the model and that is some cause for optimism. However a great deal of this confidence comes from knowing Marilyn and having respect for her abilities and someone else might not be so well suited to the challenges the position presents. The model also seems to address some of Kirstie’s concerns over funding with VIHA which have been a continuing irritant but the core issue of the funding being physician dependent appears to remain i.e. what happens when illness or some other event prevents the physician from working and there is no money coming in. I understand Anita is different and her support money comes directly from VIHA to the association and flows through to staffing etc.
As my fellow board members know it was always my intention to resign at the end of my term in the Spring. Family circumstance is forcing me to move the date. I was intending to stay on until after the September meeting but I see that is now in October at a time I cannot attend so I think I will offer my resignation to the board effective immediately.
Jeremy, I hope this helps. I know it ain’t easy being tall but it sure beats the alternatives.