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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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Montreal hospital daycare plan fails to get approval

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Staff hold a demonstration outside the Jewish General Hospital to draw attention to the government’s repeated rejection of their request for on-site subsidized daycare.

MONTREAL — Unions and management at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) in Montreal are demanding an answer from the Quebec government as to why the JGH can’t get on-site subsidized daycare for employees’ children.

Management gave its backing to a lunch-hour demonstration in front of the hospital April 4 by representatives of the three unions to which the JGH’s more than 5,000 employees belong. The rally was held to raise awareness of the longstanding issue.

Physiotherapist Pierre Allard, president of the Alliance du personnel professional et technique de la santé, said the JGH has been trying for about 10 years to have a $7-a-day Centre de la petite enfance (CPE).

Allard said every other major hospital has a CPE, including the JGH’s closest neighbouring institutions, St. Mary’s Hospital and Hôpital Ste. Justine, which have had CPEs for years and now have about 150 to 200 spaces at each institution.

Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont has had a CPE even longer, for close to 15 years, he added.

The latest rejection of the JGH’s application for a permit came in December – with no explanation, he said.

This occurred even though an expert was hired to see that the application was in order and to present the JGH’s case to the Ministry of Families.

“When we asked why [it was rejected], we were bluntly told it’s none of our business,” Allard said.

“We have been doing backflips to try to understand what is missing… At least give us a reason, something substantive, and we could fix it.”

Allard said the rejection can’t be construed as political, because the response has been the same whatever party has been in power over the past decade. He suspects this may be a case of bureaucratic intransigence – the same public servants, year after year, out of habit, filing the same response each time.

Some years ago, lack of appropriate space was given as a reason, Allard said, but that could not be a serious objection today because the JGH has since acquired property north of its main campus.

The CPE would be located in a two-storey building between the former convent the JGH bought on Côte des Neiges Road and the A Pavilion, he said.

Ideally, the CPE would have 100 spaces, but 70 is likely the most the JGH could expect at first, he said.

Allard noted that the CPE would be open to all children, regardless of religion or culture, reflecting the diversity of the staff. In December 2010, the then Liberal government introduced a regulation banning anything deemed to be religious instruction or practice in the CPEs.

“There are other daycares in the area [of the JGH], but they are all full. I know people who have had to quit their jobs and work closer to home,” he said

“The hospital is at a loss as to why the application was rejected and shares the frustration and disappointment felt by its staff,” the JGH said in a statement.

Beverly Kravitz, director of human resources and legal affairs, noted that “one of the objectives in the 2010-2015 Health Minister’s strategic plan is that all establishments put into place ‘employer of choice’ strategies to improve the work climate and improve the well-being of staff. An on-site daycare for employees is an important element in attaining this ministerial objective.”

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