POWASSAN – Coun. Todd White has put a spoke in the wheels of the Powassan and Area Family Health Team.
During the regular meeting of council held March 5, White put forward a resolution that council refuse to make any decisions regarding support of the team until its board of directors hands over all requested information, including financial audits and a business plan. The resolution was carried.
“We’re not getting any information,” he said. “They’re asking us to go blindly into this.”
The Health Team recently received approval from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to cover its share of the costs of leasing space in a building that is being built to the Team’s specifications. The Health Team currently leases offices from the Municipality in the Powassan Medical Centre, but has outgrown the space. Because the Ministry will only cover the costs incurred by the team, doctors associated with the FHT who will also be moving into the new building would be responsible for covering their own costs. On behalf of those doctors, the Board requested the Municipality subsidize the doctors’ costs, as they do in the current building.
White says the Board isn’t practicing transparency in the request, going as far as reading a news article to members of council during the meeting regarding instances of embezzlement by other FHT’s in the province.
“Some of these family health teams are getting funding for ghost employees,” he said, explaining this term refers to employment positions included in the budget submitted to the Ministry for funding but that have never actually been filled.
“This is a very concerning article,” he said, prior to the vote by council in support of White’s request.
During discussions, Mayor Peter McIsaac confirmed council’s requests for information from the Board have gone unfulfilled.
Although White’s revelation came to a surprise to some, Board Chair Sheila Latour said this isn’t White’s first tirade on the subject.
“Our last meeting with council was a closed meeting,” she said following the March 5 vote. “No questions were asked (by council). We were just taken to task by Todd.”
Latour said the closed meeting was held Feb. 19 and two of the FHT’s doctors were present, as well as director Roger George.
“We stood there shocked by the verbal attack and abuse by Todd,” she said. “I was stunned. I should have actually stopped the meeting.”
Latour said the doctors were very upset following the meeting and were dazed by the hostility coming from White.
Although White said he’s not implying the local FHT is guilty of any wrongdoing, Latour said that’s exactly what he’s suggesting.
“I have no problem with them seeing our audited financials,” she said. “But we don’t have a business plan. The Ministry says, ‘here’s what you’re getting and here’s what you’re doing with it.’ ”
In the meantime, Latour said the delay in support from council is at a serious detriment to the project.
“If they delay the July (construction) start, the cost will probably go up,” she said. “If we have to go back to square one, the Ministry has said they won’t pay any added design fees and there’s no guarantee they would approve the project, so we would be back to where we were two years ago.”
Latour said the current FHT accommodations are insufficient and cramped. She said the space doesn’t allow for any level of privacy because there just isn’t enough room to distance patients from confidential conversations.
“We have to play radios so that people’s conversations with the doctors are private,” she explained. “I think patients deserve some privacy.”
Latour said a plan of action will be discussed by the Board during its next scheduled meeting to be held March 27.