Hospital ignores public concern over health quality issues: transparency, accountability and trust take big hit

By Pepper Parr

March 23rd, 2023



This is a very disappointing situation.

Last weekend the Hamilton Spectator published a front page feature that ran for four pages inside the newspaper on serious problems at the Joseph Brant Hospital.

Since then – not a word to the public except for this article on Dr. Douglas Belton, Chief of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at Joseph Brant Hospital.

The hospital has hundreds of people that can be described as dedicated health practitioners who have brought their skills, empathy and care to thousands of people.

When you are in a hospital care really really matters.  Hundreds of people will tell you it is there at Jo Brant in spades.

Those people deserve our respect and admiration.

At the same time the public respects a newspaper that has been published daily for far longer than Joseph Brant hospital first opened its doors.

For the Hospital Foundation to decide to tell the really interesting story about Dr. Belton yet never say a word about the newspaper story, tests the trust people have for their hospital.

Dr. Douglas Belton, Chief of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at Joseph Brant Hospital.

Dr. Belton played Division I college basketball for Hampton University (Virginia, USA).”While it was great to play against future NBA stars such as Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison, it was obtaining firsthand knowledge of team building and creating a culture of winning” that transformed his approach to life.

“I saw firsthand how to build a team, how to nurture it to get the most of out everyone,” he said. “I have carried this over to my current role.”

It was the team and some of the innovative thinking and approaches to healthcare that inspired Dr. Belton to take on his current role at JBH.

“When I came for my interview, I saw the Pandemic Response Unit, which clearly put the community and patients first,” said Dr. Belton. “The Complete Breast Care program is another example of an innovative program that our community is lucky to have and deserves.”

For Dr. Belton, “diagnostic imaging is central to the healthcare system and provides a truly unique opportunity to work collaboratively with other departments toward the success of the entire organization.

This hospital was built for the public, paid for by the public and has a responsibility to be forthcoming and transparent when dealing with public matters.

“The vast majority of patients will require some sort of imaging during a typical hospital visit,” he says. “I want to work with my colleagues to provide the best possible care.”

There is some doubt that the hospital will ever respond to what the Spectator published.  They behaved the same way when close to 100 people died at the hospital as a result of an outbreak of  C difficile .

Trust is a huge factor – it is what people rely upon when they are asked by the Hospital Foundation to donate.  Quite why that trust is being squandered is beyond this writer.

Related news stories:

Spectator headline “Don’t come here to die” get no reaction from hospital

The c difficile outbreak is reported to have cost the hospital $9 million

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5 comments to Hospital ignores public concern over health quality issues: transparency, accountability and trust take big hit

  • Donna

    I am not sure how many residents are aware that the Joseph Brant Hospital tax levy has been repurposed to offset infrastructure renewal needs and funding in the capital budget. Residents are still taxed the hospital levy under a different column on the budget sheet. This information can be read at the bottom of the Mayor’s newsletter right before the blue chart.

    “The City of Burlington currently has a gap between infrastructure renewal needs and funding provided in the capital budget. Current and previous Councils have developed a 20-year asset management plan to close this gap over time with a dedicated annual infrastructure levy. The former hospital levy was also repurposed to help close this gap, but that amount alone is insufficient to do so.”

    • Blair Smith

      I believe that many citizens are unaware, although the practice of repurposing the Hospital levy has drawn heavy criticism. Indeed, to take one ‘ad hoc’ levy, popularly supported by citizens, then quietly transfer it to quite another use once it has run its course, is not a practice I would support.

  • Stephen White

    I’ve lived in Burlington 48 years this month. I can’t ever remember a time when this hospital hasn’t been “under siege”, battling one crisis after another. I’ve also read the accounts from people like Blair Smith and others who’ve shared their own stories and experiences with JBH. I confronted similar issues with my own mother who died in March 2011, and whose health complications that led to her death were a direct consequence of JBH’s substandard care and negligence. The stonewalling I experienced from hospital officials when I tried to hold them to account was beyond absurd.

    JBH is a mess! Around town it is known dismissively as “the mistake by the lake”. A provincial inquiry is long overdue. Vanderwal is long past his best before date and should have been replaced five years ago. As for the levy tacked onto our taxes to pay for this substandard mediocrity, it’s time this was scrapped. It was never intended to be permanent.

    Until there is change I’ll keep trekking out to Oakville Trafalgar Hospital when I need medical attention. Just one more thing about Oakville that runs rings around Burlington.

  • Lynn Crosby

    Wow this is incredibly offensive, not to respond to the story which is now over a week old. The hospital leaders, and our mayor, normally so pleased to be on camera, carry on with their heads in the sand. This is an insult to all the families who told their stories, all the ones who told theirs in comments and all the ones who haven’t been able to voice their stories, but have them and are suffering. It’s also an insult to everyone who may need the hospital sometime and is afraid to go there. And where is the rest of the local media? Hmmmm, not a good look.

    We had more than one gazette commenter say that Eric Vandewall told each of them years ago (and years apart) that he was brought in to turn things around, that he knew paramedics and doctors told people not to go to JBH, to drive your loved ones to Hamilton or Oakville instead. Well clearly he hasn’t done his job! Why is he still there? How can we get the Ministry of Health to step in?

  • Ayn Rand

    There’s a tried and proven dictum about issues management; if there is a problem that threatens the reputation, trust and integrity of your enterprise, private or public, you deal with it head on and get out in front of it. It is essential that you manage the narrative, not only because it provides a degree of control in an unfavourable situation, but because it demonstrates accountability, transparency and leadership. All of these are lacking at the Joseph Brant and, for its caring staff and competent health professionals, is must be a cause for horrible morale and deep embarrassment. It suggests a ‘top of the house’ that is timid, unsupportive and fundamentally untrustworthy.

    Mistakes happen, although perhaps not to the persistent degree experienced here. A responsible organization admits its fault and improves where necessary – learning from unfortunate mistakes. A lesser organization turns a deaf ear to criticism and attempts to divert attention from its problems. It skates. In my opinion, Joseph Brant Hospital has been skating for much too long and the ‘thin ice’ no longer supports the public confidence.

    There is another time-tested organizational principle; that the tenor and tone of an enterprise, how it operates and “sees” the world, comes from the top. Perhaps it’s time for a change here and, at the least, to give the dedicated staff at the hospital a change to regroup and move forward.