Thursday, June 10, 2010

BMP Wait Time One of the Worst

By Alex Roslin

Sherbrooke Record

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If you’ve got a health emergency and you go to the Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville, get ready for one of the longest waits of any hospital in Quebec.

A survey has found that the BMP Hospital has the worst record of any small hospital in the province in terms of emergency-room wait times.

And the hospital’s wait times are only getting worse, with its overall grade dropping from a D to an E+ since the previous survey.

Emergency patients at the hospital wait an average of almost 25 hours before finally getting a hospital bed, being transferred to another institution or getting discharged, according to the province-wide annual survey by the newspaper La Presse.

The Quebec average is 17.5 hours. The province says it wants to reduce that average to 12 hours.

Also, 19 percent of BMP patients wind up waiting 48 hours or more—compared to a provincial average of 7.2 percent.

The culprit, say hospital workers, is a chronic lack of nurses and beds. “The lack of nurses certainly has an impact. We’ve said that for a long time,” says Carole Guillette, president of the local nurses’ union.

“The staff are really overworked, especially in the evenings. Patients are waiting in the corridors and in chairs. It’s clear there are not enough beds.”

And don’t look to the BMP Hospital’s recent expansion to solve the problems. It won’t add a single new bed to the facility, Guillette says.

In fact, since Guillette started working at the hospital in 1982, she says it has actually reduced its number of beds from 100 to less than 80. What’s more, the number of administrative staff has increased while the number of nurses has remained the same. Nurses’ caseloads have also become heavier and more complex with medical advances and the aging population.

BMP Hospital officials didn’t respond to several calls requesting comment for this story.

In an interview with another newspaper, Dr. Christian Léger, the hospital’s director of medical affairs, suggested that part of the problem is the region’s high portion of seniors.

But a similarly high ratio of seniors in Magog didn’t stop that city’s Memphrémagog Hospital Centre from having the second-best emergency wait time in Quebec.

In fact, the Magog hospital’s record is one of the few pieces of good news in the survey.

If you have the time to drive to Magog, your emergency wait time could be less than a third of your wait in Cowansville—just 7.5 hours.

And only 0.7 percent of emergency patients in Magog wait more than 48 hours. That’s a tiny fraction of the number in Cowansville.

Mayor Calls Fee Scheme "Harebrained"

Concern in Mansonville and Shefford

by Alex Roslin

Brome County News

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two neighbouring mayors are reacting with surprise and disappointment to the Town of Brome Lake’s demand for massive fee increases for non-residents who take classes at the community centre in Knowlton.

“It seems a little harebrained,” said Mansonville Mayor Jacques Marcoux.

Mansonville has eight residents who take classes in Knowlton, but it would have to cough up about $27,000 per year under TBL’s plan.

That works out about $3,400 for each of the eight Mansonville residents taking classes. “Pardon the expression, but it’s pretty crazy. Higher non-resident fees are reasonable. But from there to say you have to pay based on municipal evaluation is not the correct way to do things,” Marcoux said.

(Mansonville’s fee would probably be reduced slightly because it has community facilities of its own that Brome Lake residents may use. The actual figure demanded isn’t known yet because TBL has yet to put a request in writing.)

Meanwhile, in Shefford, Mayor Jean-Marc Desrochers was no less stunned when told of TBL’s plan.

“Tabarouette, that would be totally absurd. There would not even be a discussion,” Desrochers said.

Shefford would probably have to pay about $32,500 a year under TBL’s plan. That’s $3,250 for each of the 10 Shefford residents taking a class in Knowlton.

The reaction was similar in Brome, which would be asked for almost $16,000 a year. (It has a dozen residents taking classes in Knowlton.)

Non-residents already pay 40 percent more to take classes at the community centre. TBL Mayor Gilles Decelles says that’s not enough and doesn’t cover the town’s full costs.

But the actual cost of the programs at the community centre is not known. A review has just started to figure that out.

That didn’t stop TBL’s council from going ahead in May with a vote to ban residents of West Bolton from taking classes at the community centre if an agreement with that town isn’t reached on recreation by August 1.

TBL has asked West Bolton for $91,000 a year. West Bolton offered $3,000.

Bill Baldwin, vice-president of the board of Lac-Brome Recreation and Community Services, which runs the community centre, says he is concerned that banning so many non-residents would mean fewer classes being given. He urged both sides to be more reasonable.

“This business of banning kids entirely is absurd. There’s got to be a middle ground,” he said.

In total, TBL’s plan would demand about $150,000 from West Bolton and the three other neighbouring communities. That’s 30 percent of the community centre’s budget of $500,000.

Meanwhile, residents of those four towns make up less than 10 percent of the people who take classes at the community centre.

Officials of some of those towns say TBL’s amount is unfair because high portions of their residents are weekenders or seasonal dwellers who don’t take classes in Knowlton.

Last week, West Bolton’s town council extended an olive branch by voting to increase its offer to $15,000 a year. That amount would cover just kids under 18 and would allow them to pay the same as residents to use the community centre in Knowlton. Adults from West Bolton would pay a higher non-resident fee to take classes.

“In my opinion, adults have the choice to pay whatever Brome Lake wishes. But children do not have a choice,” said West Bolton Mayor Donald Badger.

In an interview, Badger struck a conciliatory tone. “Whatever Brome Lake decides to do, we don’t want it [the community centre] shut down for anybody. There’s got to be a solution,” he said.

In TBL, councillors were also sounding friendlier. “I think these two months will give us a chance to reflect and negotiate like two neighbours should and to treat our neighbours the same way as we want to be treated,” said TBL councillor Marta Guber Gomes. “If another town did this to us, we would be freaking out.”

Now, another town is doing just that. Waterloo Mayor Pascal Russell says his town doesn’t want to subsidize non-residents either and wants a huge increase in money from TBL and other neighbouring towns to use Waterloo’s indoor skating rink and other rec facilities.

“If we say no [to Waterloo], we will be banned,” Decelles acknowledged at a council meeting last week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Community Centre "Ban" Has Residents up in Arms

By Alex Roslin
Brome County News

May 11, 2010

Brome Lake Mayor Gilles Decelles and his town council heard an earful of concerns at a heated council meeting last week about their plan to ban residents of West Bolton from classes at the community centre.

The controversy drew a capacity crowd with most speakers opposing the decision.

Those opposed included Brome Lake grandmother Cynthia Wilkinson, a former TBL councillor. “It’s ridiculous. I think he [Decelles] is very wrong,” she said later in an interview.

West Bolton dad Eric Frendo, whose three kids take hip hop and soccer at the community centre in Knowlton, also criticized the decision.

“The last thing I want to do is have TBL taxpayers subsidize me,” he said later.

“The mayor needs to tell us what each program costs and let West Bolton residents decide whether they want to pay the unsubsidized rate.

Banning us from participating is mean-spirited and irrational.”

But Decelles said he doesn’t have specific numbers for specific classes. Instead, he presented a series of charts that he claimed prove that West Bolton residents use TBL’s community facilities without paying their fair share.

He said TBL subsidizes West Bolton residents to the tune of $91,000 a year—the amount he says West Bolton must pay for its residents to keep using the community centre.

But not everyone agreed with this figure. The $91,000 equals nearly 20 percent of the $500,000 that TBL spends on the community centre in Knowlton.

Meanwhile, West Bolton residents are much less likely to enrol at the community centre than TBL residents, according to Decelles’ presentation. They make up less than five percent of those taking classes.

The $91,000 amounts to over $2,800 for each of the 32 West Bolton residents taking classes in Knowlton.

Like other non-TBL residents, they already pay a 40-percent higher fee to take the classes.

Wilkinson expressed concern that some classes would be cancelled at the community centre with fewer participants due to the ban. The community centre has said 16 classes would have been cancelled last year without non-TBL residents.

Teachers are paid out of the entry fees, and some may not be able to offer classes if they don’t get enough sign-ups.

In an interview, Decelles said the town will maintain any classes “that are strategic and important to our citizens.”

Yet, Decelles said he wasn’t aware that teachers are paid from entry fees and may not be willing to offer classes without enough participants.

I know none of these details. I’ve not been able to look at what extent we subsidize what classes. We haven’t had a chance to look at all these details,” he said.

Decelles said West Bolton was singled out because it is unwilling to negotiate. He claimed other towns like Brome are open to his plan. He said Brome Mayor Thomas Selby “seemed to think it is sensible.”

Yet, in an interview, Decelles acknowledged that no formal negotiations have started with any of the other three towns whose residents use the Knowlton community centre the most aside from West Bolton.

A town official in Brome confirmed that TBL has not formally approached Brome for more money. He also said Brome is not likely pay substantial amounts to TBL.

TBL will ask Brome to pay $16,000 a year, minus a small amount because it has a skating rink and park that TBL residents can use, Decelles said.

That would amount to over $1,300 for each of Brome’s 12 residents who take classes at the community centre. As with West Bolton, the amount seems disproportionate to how much Brome residents actually use the community centre.

Brome accounts for only 1.8 percent of the people who take classes there. Meanwhile, $16,000 equals 3.2 percent of the $500,000 TBL spends on the community centre.

In an interview, Decelles acknowledged that a third town, Shefford, will probably get hit with the ban as well because he doesn’t think it will agree to the amounts demanded. Ten Shefford residents took classes at the community centre last year.

Decelles also acknowledges that 90 percent of the town’s costs for the community centre are fixed regardless of how many people take classes there.

That leaves West Bolton dad Eric Frendo scratching his head. “That leaves $50,000 in variable costs. If West Bolton residents account for 5 percent of that variable cost, then $2,500 from West Bolton would ensure that TBL taxpayers are not shouldering any of that load,” he said.

In fact, West Bolton offered TBL more than that in January—$3,000 a year. TBL never made a counter-offer before proceeding with its ban, said Carrol Kralik, director-general of West Bolton.

Kralik says it’s not true that West Bolton won’t negotiate. “That’s not fair. It’s pretty hard for us to negotiate if they don’t come back to us,” she said.

West Bolton’s offer of $3,000 was based on what the town currently pays Waterloo to access community facilities ($2,550) and figures that were thrown around in past negotiations with TBL under former mayor Richard Wisdom.

The $3,000 equals about $5 per West Bolton resident—which is the same rate per resident that TBL itself pays to Cowansville and Waterloo to access their community facilities.

In the end, the TBL council adopted an amended resolution proposed by councillor Marta Gubert Gomes to delay the ban until Aug. 1 to give more time for negotiations.

Decelles had wanted the ban to start in May so West Bolton children couldn’t enrol in summer camp. Decelles and councillor Patrick Ouvrard voted against the resolution as amended.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Young and the Restless

TBL Mayoral Candidates Face Young Families

By Frank Nixon
The Sherbrooke Record
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brome Lake mayoral candidates Michel Ayotte, Stanley Neil, Pierre Marchand and Gilles Decelles debated family and youth issues, for over two hours Tuesday night, before an audience of 25, at Centre Lac Brome.

Unlike the speakers’ night event, organized by the Brome Lake Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 7, the mayoral candidates spent most of their time focused on family issues, in a flexible and relaxed format.

The main topics debated were the need for affordable housing for young families, the necessity for high-speed Internet throughout TBL and the need for better playground facilities. The debate, often lively at times, was organized by ‘Brome County Families’ – a TBL advocacy group formed in August.

“One thing is clear – people are fed up of talking to town hall and not getting answers or any action,’” said Ayotte. “I have being proposing, from the beginning, a more pro-active administration. The time for studies and reports is over. It is high time that we move our tails out of the kitchen and form committee and action groups. If I am elected – and I mean this – the door is coming off my office!”

“The Internet has to be pushed at the MRC,” Ayotte continued. “All of the population will have to sign a petition to get the ball rolling. The money is there in Ottawa and in Quebec. We must go after the MRC, and if we do this, I assure you, they will move!

“As for housing, we will see what cheaper lots are available and what housing could be built at a cost that will entice young couples to move here. The present incentive plan is not what we need. If I am elected, we will get it overhauled and we will make it adaptable to our needs.”

Ayotte concluded: “We will not be able to do everything in the first weeks or months but if people give me their trust, I will lead a dynamic town hall – and if the entire population puts their shoulder to the wheel, we can achieve great things.”

Neil made a plea for young families to get involved in their community to achieve concrete results. “It would seem that a lot of parents expect the schools and the towns to be able to provide facilities and activities to keep their children occupied,” said Neil. “The schools and the towns can only help provide these services when they have parents that are willing to help by their getting involved.”

“In the mid 80s, when I was a councillor, I worked very closely with the councillor in charge of recreation to make sure that Knowlton got a community centre and that TBL took over the Fulford building, from the Davis estate, for community activities,” added Neil.

“Community services were created to make sure that if and when parents get actively involved, results can be achieved,” continued Neil. “We were able to get a lot accomplished, because we were involved. It proves that if you get involved and you can make it happen.”

As for high speed Internet, Neil said that it was vital that the town work with the MRC so that it is made available to all TBL residents. “It would help to encourage young business minded entrepreneurs to move and settle in the area,” he said.

Marchand touted his leadership credentials, as his main selling point, to young families.My 20 years successful business experience, my experience working as a community organizer, my knowledge as a lawyer, my communication skills, my experience in managing human resources, my strong sense of community, and my full-time commitment to serve the needs of the people are what I’m offering to you as well as the rest of the population,” said Marchand. “A truck full of responsibilities has been devoted to the municipalities, making municipal politics a completely different world than it was 20 years ago.”

“For the last five years, I accepted to be engaged in the life of a small boy, born from a single mother, as a constant masculine figure and as a good father,” continued Marchand. “This, of course, has changed my life completely. My concerns as a parent are actual and not theoretical; I’m side-by-side with you and share completely your concerns.”

Marchand then turned negative and openly criticized former mayor and councillor, Gilles Decelles. “As you all know, I’m not a person searching for a retirement project,” said Marchand. “I am dynamic and I have the energy and the wish to participate full-time and actively to allow our community to adapt to the realities of today. This requires a leader that will devote his full time in this function – and not be a part-time mayor reachable by cell phone, as Mr. Decelles is offering.

Decelles chose to ignore Marchand’s criticism and proceeded to lay out his plan to attract young families to TBL.

Decelles promised that town hall would work toward making high speed Internet available to all TBL residents. “High-speed Internet is as essential as clean water,” he said.

“The town also needs to be a better place for families to live in Knowlton,” Decelles added. “People are very mobile to get a job but the rest of the environment has to be attractive.”

To make Knowlton more attractive to young families, Decelles proposed a path around Mill Pond “with swings and a playground.” He would also replace the beach house at Douglass Beach and make it the centre for a “linear path network” connecting all the districts within TBL.

As for parks, Decelles said that they need to be accessible to parents, by being “within walking distance.” He also saw the need to “validate the mission of the community centre” to maximize the use of resources, so that the needs of youth and families are met.

As for the “affordable” housing program, launched by town hall in June, Decelles said: “This program is not well thought out. The budget should only be for young families.”

Alex Roslin, a spokesperson for ‘Brome County Families’, said one the group’s initial concerns was the lack of public playgrounds in Knowlton, especially for preschoolers. “This became a bigger concern after Knowlton’s only public playground, at Lions Park, was dismantled last year,” he said.

Roslin added: “More generally, parents are also concerned about the seven per cent decline in the number of households with kids in Lac Brome, according to the last census. While the town has implemented a family policy to try to reverse that, many parents feel that the needs of families often still aren't heard.”

The debate was moderated by West Bolton resident Albert Nerenberg.