Council wanted some leverage on hospital spending and service - insisting the CEO keep residents informed would be a good place to start

By Pepper Parr

May 18th, 2023



The Joseph Brant Hospital Board of Directors had sent the City Clerk a notice setting out governance changes the hospital Board had made that they wanted the city to endorse.

In a written notice to the City Clerk they asked:

THAT Council for the City of Burlington endorse the Joseph Brant Hospital Board of Directors decision to discontinue the Municipal Representative seat on the Hospital Board and THAT the Hospital commits to continuing its engagement and ongoing positive relationship with the City of Burlington.

That was the piece of business before a Council Standing Committee that then proceeded to squabble for more than an hour on how the they should respond and what they should do to ensure that as a Council they had some control and perhaps leverage when dealing with hospital matters.

To fully understand how the conversation you need to understand that every member of Council is also a Deputy Mayor with a specific portfolio. There is an additional kind of Deputy Mayor as well – in place to serve when the real Mayor is not available for Ceremonial events. Confusing – you bet it is.

Barbara Elliott board vice chair Joseph Brant Hospital was available to answer any questions members of Council might have had about the changes the hospital made and they endorsement they were seeking.

City Council was not happy with the report the hospital sent to the City Clerk. They wanted quite a bit more input and influence than the hospital was suggesting. However, Council didn’t want that input and influence to be all that public.

With the report in front of them Committee Chair Galbraith then asked: “ Are there any questions for Barbara or for staff? Seeing none, he asked: “will a member like to move this item?

Councillor Sharman moved the report, which was before Council as a Read and File

“Are there any comments? Asked the Chair

Councillor Kearns: “I’d like to table the amendment that I’ve circulated to the Clerk.

And that is when the meeting got interesting. Council appears to have decided that they would have to go along with what the hospital board wanted but they were going to put in place a series of required meetings that would allow council to stay close to the Hospital board and be able to have both input and influence.

The single annual meeting, which the hospital suggested, was not what this council had in mind.

Getting to the point where they had a response the hospital request was torturous.

Councillor Kelvin Galbraith: Chaired the meeting.

Would you like to read that amendment into the record Councillor Kearns asked Chair Galbraith?

The amendment was:

To direct the office of the mayor to conduct, on a biannual basis, a joint meeting with the hospital board Chair, Vice Chair and CEO with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Recreation and Community culture to discuss any pertinent matters; Angelo Bentivegna is the Deputy Mayor for Recreation Community and Culture.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns put an amendment on the table and did her best to ensure that it didn’t get too watered down.

“The rationale behind this is” said Kearns, “about opportunity to discuss pertinent matters outside of the cycle of reporting into Council.

“I view this as a transitional approach to the change. The ex officio seat on the hospital board which Mayor Meed Ward served on when she was a Council member; the position has also been held by myself, and Councillors Sharman and Bentivegna, who is the current council representative.

“We should keep the conversation going while still recognizing the efforts in good governance that the board has brought forward to us by way of this report.

Chair: There are a couple of questions coming. We’ll start with Councillor Sharman who said: I really appreciate the amendment. Might I make a suggestion that includes the mayor and council. The reason I’d say that is because every single one of us, as deputy mayors have a significant interest in what’s going on.

“And as we move into the stage of growing the community substantially over the next 20 to 30 years we need to make sure our community is looked at it from a healthcare perspective. And I think we have a significant reason to want to talk to them in general.”

Councillor Bentivegna; He is the current city representative on the hospital board – that was about to come to an end.

Councillor Bentivegna pointed out that there was a time when the Joseph Brant Foundation and the Hospital Auxiliary were on the Board.

In determining what they would set up as a meeting structure Council had to ensure that it was not bumping up against the number of councillors taking part – more than three would constitute a quorum (that would be four members) which would make it a public meeting – which wasn’t what this council wanted to see taking place.

Kearns in her usual zippy use of language said: We can meet up to three without busting quorum.

Mayor Meed Ward at one point said she was not going to support an amendment – it would damage her reputation.

Mayor Meed Ward added: “We could modify this amendment to have a biannual meeting and make sure that the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Recreation Community and Culture and whoever the deputy mayor is for ceremonial be invited to that meeting; that might be a way to thread the needle and I would offer that language then as an amendment to the amendment.

Chair Galbraith: I actually do like the mayor’s amendment. I have the hospital in my ward and I certainly deal with a handful of situations; resident issues surrounding the hospital, and I don’t really have that sort of conduit to communicate with the hospital – I’m definitely open to being included in in a couple of meetings a year.

Kearns: Happy to support a friendly amendment that includes and ceremonial and that would give everyone a turn at an appropriate time while maintaining the consistency of one be the mayor as well as the mayor. So if everyone’s fine with that, as well as the hospital of course I’m happy to move this forward.

Sherman. “I’ve been thinking about the need for everybody to be there all the time. I actually believe that the healthcare system is changing so dramatically and will have such a profound effect on our community over the next 30 years. That we need to take a leadership role on this as well.

“I would I would suggest that the mayor be there and invite others as necessary. And if she needs a Clerk there, she can get a Clerk there. That would be my suggestion.

Meed Ward: “I’m very interested to hear from the Clerk about what we might be able to do. My sense is that if there is a full counsel present, then those meetings are, would have to be constituted in a very formal manner and public and recorded and all of that and it notwithstanding a Clerk being present, I don’t know that we can have the same kind of dialogue.

“So we’re talking kind of about two separate things, one that’s kind of a touch base meeting which is not a Council meeting and then there’s the twice a year touch base meeting that includes all of Council.”

City Clerk Kevin Arjoon

Clerk: The response to your question, Mayor, through the Chair. Yeah, if there is a majority of council at a meeting, it would constitute a council meeting.

Mayor: Maybe we could refer this to legal counsel and have the clerk work on some language. Think it through. In general I’m okay with the idea. I just think it needs some improvement.

Kearns.”So this should be very simple – it is before you right now. Everyone has the opportunity to reach out to the hospital for their own interests or concerns. These are high level conversations around any pertinent matters. If anyone has a project or customer based or logistics operations they can be supported directly with the help of the CEO or patient services. They have always maintained a very strong open line of communication. I see this as a transition and I’m looking for some additional oversight.”

It didn’t get any better.  It looked as if they were going to be able to settle it and move on.

Kearns: It’s all very simple.

Chair: I’m happy to take the vote at any time and if it fails, we can look at it again at Council

They weren’t there yet

Mayor Meed Ward: “So the only way today, if we want to try to get closer to consensus is, that it’s the mayor, the deputy mayor and then one additional member of council to be determined based on the needs that are being discussed at the time.”

Kearns: “I can modify it once again.”

Kearns: “I can modify it once again.”

Direct the office of the mayor to conduct a biannual basis on a biannual basis a joint meeting with the JBH, Board Chair, Vice Chair and CEO with the mayor and the Deputy Mayor of recreation and community culture, and the ceremonial deputy mayor and any additional council members depending on topics to discuss any pertinent matters.

Chair asks: “Is that how you wanted it to read Councillor Kearns?”

Kearns: “I think Mayor Meed Ward wants to change it actually.”

Meed Ward: “Okay, so I won’t be supporting not getting a ceremonial deputy mayor because that allows for equity and rotation which was the point in the first place. So dropping that and just making pointed members based on topics will squeeze out anyone that may not have an opportunity otherwise.

“I’m not interested in putting my reputation on the line to violate the municipal act and closed door meetings and open meetings.”

City Clerk Yeah, I think passing an amendment is great

Kearns: I think this might help bring us closer to consensus. We can all agree that it was very important that you have the opportunity to serve on the hospital board. In light of this governance change that is no longer possible.

Sharman: “Well, I hate to drag this on.

Sharman: “Well, I hate to drag this on. I have the greatest regard for both council members. This is amendment that will last forever. This makes no sense to me. I’m happy that the Deputy Mayor of   Recreation Community and Culture be there for the term he would have had, but it makes no sense to be allocating roll into an amendment. So So I would say we’re going to save for the next term or what I it’s, I’m sorry, this is not working for me. The inclusions that roll unless you put it in for the next, you know, to end at the end of 2026. So I just leave that back with you.”

Meed Ward: “If I could just jump in I kind of share that. That concern. I’m not quite sure one person is being signalled out here. I just don’t get it but I sort of had the same concern. So pass that back to you Councillor Kearns.”

Kearns: Thanks, happy to put it to 2026. Also note we have a massive review of agencies, boards, commissions and all functions in and around those coming up. So anything on the table can change at that time. With our agencies, boards and commissions are in perpetuity, apart for the sake of speeding this along, I’m happy to include for this term.

Meed Ward: “ I support that too. To have a term limited and I would just suggest the Clerk make it clear that it’s so after the Deputy Mayor of Recreation, Community and Culture for the balance of the 22 to 2026 term.

“I’m looking around the room and I think we’re all nodding so we may well have landed this awesome.”

Chair: So now to call the vote on item 4.1, as amended regarding amendments to the Joseph brand hospital administrative bylaws.

Sharman: ” We had talked about whether or not we wanted an official briefing in public session during a council meeting twice a year or once a year. I’m open to either but we would need another amendment for that if council wants to have two briefings in council setting for the public So if no one feels the need for twice a year formally in council, then we can just leave it and carry on. And I’m not tabling that because I’m not I’m not seeing hands.

Chair. Seeing no further comments. I will now call the vote for item 4.1 Regarding amendments to Joseph Brant Hospital administrative bylaws

Making sure she controlled as much as she could Councillor Kearns said:”My apologies chair. I got caught up in amendment discussion and forgot that I did have comments on the overall piece which I will make now.

Kearns:”My apologies chair. I got caught up in amendment discussion and forgot that I did have comments on the overall piece which I will make now.
The board has a governance oversight responsibility and absolutely needs to be a skills based board based on the strategic plan and master plan of the hospital at any given time. So I think there is perhaps some additional conversation we can have with the community about the role of the board and the role of Patient Relations and where the city and city council members fit in.  So we’ll continue to have those conversations both formally informally and at Council. And I just want to assure the public that nothing is lost in this transition.

Sharman: “But in terms of the relationship between the city and the board we shouldn’t be at that level. We shouldn’t be involved. The hospital is capable of doing that all by itself and it does a wonderful job so I’m not there for that for that, but when it comes to the overall community and how it’s developing, which I think is going to be significant in the next few years. So we have to be involved for in a different way. And that is the way we represent our community into that board. I do have access and I do have conversations already. That’s not my concern. My concern is not me it’s about the city and the community. And that was why I’ve been speaking the way I have but I am satisfied with the outcome.

Chair: Seeing no further comments, I will now call the vote. All those in favour reminder to raise your hands.

After more than an hour of offering amendments to amendments of the recommendation that would go to Council the following was passed with a vote that was unanimous.

Approve the recommendation regarding a recent Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) compliance exercise, and proposed amendments to Joseph Brant Hospital Administrative By-laws; and

Endorse the Joseph Brant Hospital Board of Directors decision to discontinue the Municipal Representative seat on the Joseph Hospital Board; and
Adopt a practice of inviting the Joseph Brant Hospital Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer to annually to a Council meeting to provide updates on the Hospital and its future directions; and
Direct the office of the Mayor to conduct on a bi-annual basis a joint meeting with the JBH Board Chair, Vice Chair and CEO with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Recreation and Community Culture for the balance of the 2022 – 2026 term plus one additional member of council to discuss any pertinent matters.

And – it was done.  It is difficult in a written report to appreciate the tension between Councillor Kearns and the Mayor.

What is even more difficult is that when the matter got to council there was not a single word said about telling the public what had changed and why – and what Council had done to keep their finger on the scale to ensure that the hospital didn’t forget that the public, represented by Council needed a voice.


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2 comments to Council wanted some leverage on hospital spending and service – insisting the CEO keep residents informed would be a good place to start

  • Lynn Crosby

    “I’m not interested in putting my reputation on the line to violate the municipal act and closed door meetings and open meetings.”, mayor

    Oh please!

    It appears they have chosen yet again to not include the public, not hear from the public, and to do the least amount of work themselves. That isn’t accountability. As for the hospital, you were happy to go to council and the public when you wanted our tax levy money. But now it’s a closed little circle. Shame on you and on council.

  • Joe Gaetan

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Darn you Charles Dickens,I wanted to say that first.