Judicial review needed before psychiatric patient advocates transferred to CMHA

(TORONTO) – There must be a judicial review before the Ontario government moves ahead with its controversial plan to have the Canadian Mental Health Association take over operation of the independent Psychiatric Patients Advocacy Office (PPAO), the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union said today.

“The Ministry of Health has come under justified criticism for its plan to divest the PPAO to the CMHA,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Before a final decision is made all stakeholders must have the opportunity to appear before a judicial review to comment on the wisdom of putting psychiatric patient advocates in a conflict-of-interest with their new employer, the CMHA.

“Neither the government nor the CMHA can have it both ways: they can’t expect to have patient advocates fighting on behalf of those with psychiatric illness while at the same time finding themselves employed by those who deliver services. This is as blatant a conflict-of-interest as I’ve ever seen.”

An arms-length agency of the Ministry of Health, the PPAO was established almost three decades ago to provide a voice for those with mental health issues and who sometimes found themselves abused and neglected by hospital officials responsible for their care. Officers with the PPAO often bring cases before the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman for remedy. OPSEU represents more than 50 full- and part-time PPAO officers who, if the government’s plan moves forward, will find their work supervised by the CMHA, which delivers local mental health services.

A measure of its success over the decades is that the PPAO, whose work in the early years was resisted by hospital administrators, now has representatives in virtually every one of Ontario’s 60 hospitals.

Thomas, a registered practical nurse working with psychiatric patients at Providence Care in Kingston, said there are alternatives to the plan to divest the PPAO to the CMHA. He said that the findings and recommendations of the PPAO should be reportable directly to the provincial Legislature by means of either the human rights commission, or through the Ombudsman’s office.

“There was no public announcement or consultations beforehand. The decision was brought in through the backdoor. Before any divestment takes place, there should be a judicial review and full debate in the Legislature after the Oct. 6 election,” said Thomas.

To learn more about the PPAO campaign against divestment, please visit: http://www.cleonet.ca/news/2179

For more information:

Greg Hamara
OPSEU Communications
416-443-8888 ext 8777 office