The consultation on the revocation of the designation of Penetanguishene General Hospital: Too little, too late
TORONTO, August 21, 2017 — In a brief submitted to the Minister of Francophone Affairs, the Honorable Marie-France Lalonde, the Commissioner of French Language Services, Mr. François Boileau, reminds her Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that there has been a breach of the French Language Services Act with regard to the revocation of the designation of Penetanguishene General Hospital.
“The process required under the French Language Services Act was not respected, and the government players are therefore in breach of the Act. This situation perfectly illustrates the impact that the lack of accountability and compliance verification has on the offering of French-language services: these Ministries were not thorough and the patients were the ones who suffered. It is unfortunate that Francophone patients are prejudiced and are not able to access health care services in their language,” states the Commissioner Boileau.
Before eliminating the designated services offered by Penetanguishene General Hospital, the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network was required to ensure that all reasonable measures were taken to comply with the Act. The Ministry of Francophone Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care also had the obligation to respect the process required under the Act for revoking a designation.
Commissioner Boileau emphasizes that “this overdue public consultation serves no purpose because it is taking place nine years after Penetang Hospital’s designated services were eliminated. Also, the mere fact that Georgian Bay General Hospital was ordered to request its designation is not a ‘reasonable measure’ within the meaning of the Act.”
In his brief, the Commissioner also recommended a series of specific measures to remedy this situation, and to prevent future violations. Among other things, these recommendations seek to improve accountability, organizational efficiency, and the prompt identification of compliance deficiencies in the delivery of French-language services.
• The Office of the Commissioner received 19 complaints about the closure of Penetanguishene General Hospital, all filed in November 2014.
• According to Ontario Regulation 398/93, Penetanguishene General Hospital is designated under the French Language Services Act for admitting, reception, ambulatory services, people systems, and business office services. It was not until July 2017 that these same services were designated at Georgian Bay General Hospital.
• Penetanguishene General Hospital closed its doors in March 2016.
• At the end of 2016, the Office received nine new complaints about the inadequate delivery of the designated services by Georgian Bay General Hospital.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and its primary mandate is to ensure that the delivery of government services complies with the French Language Services Act.