MONTREAL – There will be no compromise on the Jewish character of the public health and social services institutions historically tied to the Montreal Jewish community, the head of the provincial body that now runs most of them vowed.
Alan Maislin, board chair of the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest de l’Ile de Montréal – more commonly, West-Central Montreal Health – said he has told Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette that he will not “buckle under” when it comes to preserving the culture of the nine (soon to be 10) institutions (at 31 sites) under its administration.
Bill 10, a massive province-wide reorganization of the system, was implemented in April 2015. The Jewish General Hospital (JGH), Mount Sinai Hospital, Maimonides Geriatric Centre, Jewish Eldercare Centre and Miriam Home and Services are now managed by West-Central under a single CEO (Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg), single department heads, and a single board, whose 22 directors were appointed by Barrette in October.
Maislin, chairman of Maisliner Transport and former chair of CSSS Cavendish, was speaking May 31 at the first session of the JGH Mini-Med School, presented with the Côte St. Luc Men’s Club.
“I want to be adamant about this,” he said. “Our culture is absolutely non-negotiable. Our forefathers built these institutions. They are our heritage.”
However, Maislin stressed that the community cannot rely on the government alone to ensure Jewish character.
“This is not just about a mezuzah on the wall or kashrut. We have to be involved. If we choose not to, that’s how our institutions will disappear,” said Maislin, who was joined by West-Central’s associate executive director Francine Dupuis.
A priority of his board is keeping the community engaged, especially now that the institutions no longer have their own boards. “Thousands of volunteers are needed if we are to have an impact and effect on what happens,” he said.
The plainspoken Maislin described himself as a trucker who was surprised when Barrette “anointed” him. He is bringing to the task his business skills acquired in building an international transportation company.
Maislin is trying to maximize cost-cutting in non-clinical areas, ranging from centralizing purchasing to getting doctors to see more patients.
He believes that Barrette’s vision, which is to fully integrate all institutions within a given CIUSSS or CISSS (not university affiliated), is correct.
“With 55 cents of every dollar going into health care, the system needed to be fixed. Not one doctor will deny that,” he said.
West-Central manages an annual budget of more than $700 million and a staff of 9,400 for a population of 350,000 in its far-flung territory.
As Dupuis explained, removing “the walls” among institutions will provide “a seamless continuum of care,” but it will take up to 10 years to complete.
Maislin, a member of the JGH’s advisory board, addressed specific issues facing that institution, which continues to struggle with a deficit and, he believes, unfair media coverage.
Over-crowding in its new emergency department and the doubling up of patients in the new critical-care wing, Pavilion K, which was touted for having all private patient rooms, are the result the JGH’s being “a victim of its own success,” Maislin contends.
“The government does not realize that people are not stupid. They go on the Internet, and they find out where the best place to be served is,” he said. Government funding is not keeping pace with the increasing volume of patients, he said.
The JGH will accept patients no matter where they live, including off-island, he said.
The JGH ER saw more than 85,000 people in 2015, he continued, and by March of this year, it had incurred a $3-million deficit.
While the “goal” was to have only one person per room in Pavilion K, which opened in January, the capacity is two, he stated.
Maislin also pointed out that due to a lack of beds at long-term care facilities, there are about 70 patients at the JGH who would be more properly served at chronic care institutions.
Of that lack, he commented, “no one seems to care.”