Monday, January 11, 2010

Fraser Health Authority to kill amazing Chimo program that has helped people with serious disabilities for 26 years - for less than half CEO's salary

- photo by panshipanshi

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday January 12, 2010

Why Kill a 'Life Saving' Program?

Closing Chimo Achievement Centre for people with serious disabilities will cost lives and dollars

"This program saved my life. If it's shutdown, I'm going to go downhill fast."

- Lawrence Bibby, Chimo Achievement Centre client

What do you do with a healthcare program that helps people with serious disabilities like multiple sclerosis stay out of hospital or long-term care and instead lead independent lives -- while saving taxpayers millions of dollars?

Any thoughtful analysis would conclude that this kind of innovative program should be a model for the province and be expanded.

But if you are the Fraser Health Authority, you simply
shut down the program without even evaluating it, without talking to the administrator or staff or clients, all to save a whopping $165,000 a year.

That amount is less than half the $466,000
salary paid to Fraser Health's CEO -- Dr. Nigel Murray -- and a pittance in the Authority's $2.48 billion budget. But it actually pays for several staff to help keep 45 clients healthy and functioning.

Go home and good luck

Nevertheless, on January 31, the
Chimo Achievement Centre in Coquitlam will lock its doors and its clients will be told to stay home and watch television, with a bit more home care added to keep them there.

Or they can visit a seniors centre for any activities despite the fact that most of them are far too young to be seniors and those centres don't have exercise programs for people in wheelchairs like Lawrence Bibby, who has MS.

I've known Lawrence for 35 years and when told me what was going on, I couldn't believe it.
But it is tragically true.

Lawrence actually moved from Vancouver to be in the area and take advantage of the Chimo program -- which he says literally saved his life.

Elizabeth Oliveira is another Chimo client who knows it saves money.

"Before Chimo I used to be really sick in hospital three or four times a year -- I haven't been in hospital for two years," said Oliveira, a 34-year-old who has muscular dystrophy, uses a trachea ventilator and gets help with breathing exercises.

But that's not all. Chimo gives both her and her mother much more.

"It makes me feel good about myself despite my limitations," she says. "My mother needs one day a week not to worry about me."

[You can hear from other Chimo clients speaking about the cutbacks by viewing
this video.]

'They will deteriorate'

Chimo's administrator Arlene Hartley-Lewchuk is overwhelmingly worried about what will happen to her clients, despite her own disappearing job.

"We're not seeing any suitable placements for our clients -- there is nowhere for them to go but home," she said in an interview. "Physically their muscle tone is going to deteriorate. They won't have the ability or confidence to go out in their communities."

"But the big thing is they will lose their ability to live at home," Hartley-Lewchuk said. "There will be increased falls, which means hospital stays."

Amazingly, Hartley-Lewchuk says Fraser Health Authority never visited the Chimo program to evaluate it before cutting all its funding, nor has she yet had a meeting with its officials -- requested back in October -- to explain their decision.

Late Monday, Fraser Health Authority spokesperson Roy Thorpe said the evaluation of Chimo did not involve client interviews or discussions with the administrator or staff because of "confidentiality concerns around budget decisions" and because Authority directors "familiar with the program" were involved in determining the cuts.

Thorpe added that both an Authority director for home health and vice-president clinical operations Barbara Korabek called Chimo's Hartley-Lewchuk, but after the decision was made.

B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities is shocked at the closure, and the lack of evaluation.

"This is the sort of cost-effective model that should be expanded, not removed," says executive director Jane Dyson. "This is a very backward move by Fraser Health."

And the
Multiple Sclerosis Society agrees.

"The closure of Chimo would be a detriment to the disadvantaged and vulnerable population," says Adrianne Boothroyd, the MS Society's Lower Mainland chapter manager. "We strongly suggest a reconsideration for funding for this important and essential organization."

Chimo clients organizing

But Chimo clients are not giving up, despite the impending deadline. Lawrence Bibby has
created both an online petition and a Facebook protest page to urge Fraser Health and B.C. to reverse the closure.

Fraser Health Authority's spokesperson Roy Thorpe told me Friday that all Chimo clients have either been referred to an "alternate day program" or will get some additional home support.

But Thorpe admitted those programs are for seniors, not younger people in wheelchairs, and didn't have an answer about Fraser Health's lack of evaluation before killing Chimo as part of its
$160 million cost cutting exercise.

Thorpe says the decision to cut all funding "was never meant to suggest there wasn't great value to the program."

But he did have a response when asked if Fraser Health would reconsider the decision to close Chimo: "No."

I urge you to not take no for an answer -- help those people with disabilities who want to live independently at home by signing the petition, joining the Facebook group and
letting your MLA know this foolish decision will only cost our healthcare system even more money while punishing those who don't deserve it.


Laila Yuile said...


One question, where is Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux in all of this?

( )

Did she not campaign on a platform of standing up for people with disabilities?

According to her site, she is a " strong community advocate for programs to assist people with physical disabilities to achieve their goals and regain independence."

Perhaps this would be a time for her to demonstrate that sense of conmmunity advocacy.

Laila Yuile said...

One more note:

Since Stephanie and Kevin Falcon are such good friends out here in South Surrey,it makes her an even more important contact in addition to her advocacy for people with disabilities.

Stacey Robinsmith said...

A perfect example of penny wise, pound (dollar)foolish. The end result will be an increase in hospital visits and therefore an increase in costs to Fraser Health. Such an incredibly shortsighted move.

Gary E said...

This situation is sickening. Why are they cutting these programs when all they have to do is claw back these overpaid CEO salaries and benefits. And while they're at it how about clawing back the golden paraghute and excessive wages paid to the rubber stamp MLA's.
Bill is right. Get the message out to your MLA's now. Take 5 minutes and write a letter/email, or make a phone call. This is not just wrong it's rerehensible.

Anonymous said...

Another angle highlighting the government's callous disregard for people who participated in this valuable program.

Many of the Chimo participants relied on HandiDart to attend the program, and the decision to close was announced during the recent strike.

A double whammy over winter. First they couldn't get there. Then it was shut down.

DPL said...

The Health authorities cuts small amounts of money which helps a lot of people without too much thought. The bottom line is what counts to those scoundrels, and to heck with the folks that need those services. They are told by government to cut costs so they jump right to it. When will the people in this province catch on to the fact that they too might get a condition that can and will sideline them. Many of us just can't jump in the car and go somewhere else. Shame on you Gordon Campbell for having those uncaring people working in of all places a health authourity. I do hope the guy in charge doesn't get to sleep at night, but in fact he probrably has no feelings for others. Fire the jerk and bring back the many programs that have been axed. A very fit older woman who up till a month ago thought nothing of going on 10 mile hikes once a week, fell when attending the theater. She is now housebound and will be for a couple more months. If she had no mobile friends to assist her, she would get no therapy, visitors or regular meals.Just ask yourself if she might be depressed by her present condition? What has this province sunk to under the present government? Shame

Anonymous said...

Absolutely appalling! Yes, Stephanie, time for you to stand up and be heard and take a stand against this insanity.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to guess that it would cost more to study the program to figure out if it was worth keeping than it would cost to keep it running.

Dumb huh?

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks folks - I appreciate the kind comments and encourage everyone to sign the petition and join the Facebook group.

Harmony said...

Thanks Bill for this fresh piece, your BC Rail and HST stories are losing their edge. One question though, I would like to let my MLA know what I think about important issues such as this but I want to see some action as a result. Otherwise what's the point? I mean shouldn't they respond to us with a report about what they're hearing and doing? I think we're entitled to this to be able to hold them accountable but more often than not, I get ignored.

Anonymous said...

Why is it always the "little guy" who has to suffer under this government? Either physically, mentally, or financially. But the fact that the Liberals keep getting elected, says a lot for the people who vote them in.

SharingIsGood said...

Thanks for jumping on this important issue, Bill. You know, when I look at this sort of thing, the cynic in me can't help but believe that the BC Liberals actually hope that these people get sick and filled with dispair; that way they'll just die off all the more quikly and will be removed from the government's roles - permanent budget reduction.

I wish I didn't have these dark thoughts, but it ties in with BC Liberal treatment (or lack thereof) of the homeless, the mentally ill, the victims of crime, welfare recipients and our seniors just as easily. They just don't care, though the exceedingly wealthy get increasingly wealthier in comparison to our poor and those on fixed incomes.

Anonymous said...

Fraser Health Authority should be ashamed of themselves to pray on the people with disabilities. Due to your irresponsable and cruel decision of closing down Chimo the clients will not have any other place to go for activities, therapies and socialization. They love Chimo, their friends and the caring staff. I am sure that after Jan. 31st 2010 their lives will be very sad and empty, their future will be to live confined to their apt/home in loneliness facing in time further physical and mentally deterioration.
How can you live feeling peace of mind with such lack of compassion towards one of the most vulnerable people of society? I could not.

Anonymous said...

The fraser Health Authority is certainly doing its best NOT to pray on people with disabilities, or in hospitals.

They've also cut funding for the spiritual care giving non-denominational chaplains who have worked in the hospitals since they opened.

One media company - two different takes on this:

Vancouver Sun - Douglas Todd

Burnaby Now

Anonymous said...

The FHA and VIHA are under the control of some very sick people.
It's quite obvious management are sicker than the people they are looking after. That's the only way they could qualify for their positions. The VIHA ceo was going to quit last may(and go back to Limey land) but when Campbell won he gave himself a large raise and stayed on. Just the salaries and benefits alone of six of these deadbeats cost our health care system roughly 8 million dollars a
year. And we do not need them.They are all Campbell clones
We know how The Campbell bunch
operate and I would like to know where the NDP stands on many of these issues. If elected we would?

Ian Wilson said...

My name is Ian Wilson and my mother, Emily Wilson, passed away in December of 2008 from complications due to MS. When I was seven, she and I moved to Coquitlam to a new home less than a block away from the Chimo Achievement Centre. Through the years as I went to school, she would meet with her friends in the Centennial Room at Chimo and even became the head of the MS Support Group there. That center was her life - both physically and psychologically - and gave her the strength to carry on through the best and the worst of what she had to endure on a daily basis from having MS.

Closure of the Chimo Achievement Centre - in my opinion - is NOT a viable nor reasonable option in solving budget cuts to health care. People should not be sacrificed to support the profit for a few at the top of the Fraser Health Authority or any other governmental organization. To support the closure of Chimo is an injustice to the people who depend on the Centre to make their lives more bearable. Thus I urge both the Fraser Health Authority and the Ministry of Health to look elsewhere to cut money to meet their budgets. Perhaps scale back on some of the Olympic expenditures??

Just a thought…

Bill Tieleman said...

Thank you very much, Ian, for sharing the story of your mother Emily.

Chimo has obviously meant so much for so many different people. It simply makes no sense for Fraser Health to shut down such an important and valuable program for such few alleged savings.

MS is a terrible disease, as are all of the other illnesses affecting the clients of Chimo. To take away Chimo is cruel.

Thanks again Ian for your support.

lailia izaclown said...

Chimo should be closed. Bring on private health. Money talks. Guess who complains the most. Those broke as a joke.