Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, December 23, 2016

Failing The Critical Service Grade

"Transition can be tough, but it can also create opportunities."
"We are excited about what will be offered in 2017. Ultimately we know these changes [in the way the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada operates] will better serve people living with MS."
"The model we used to provide services in Victoria [British Columbia] was unique, and very expensive, which unfortunately made it unsustainable. The needs of people with MS are complex and critical, and as a not-for-profit we do not have the capacity to fill every gap."
Tania Vrionis, president, B.C. Division, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
The MS Society of Canada's Victoria building on North Park street has been listed for $3.1M. (CHEK)

"The [MS] centre was somewhere safe where I could go with other people who were the same, who knew exactly how I felt when I said I couldn't do something. It was freeing. It freed us all to be ourselves."
River Grace, 67, Victoria, British Columbia

"Most people who use the centre don't have jobs. That's why they need it so desperately."
You've got somebody making $350,000 a year, and then you just took away services from a person earning $10,000 a year. There's something really wrong there."
To ask them to pick research over [alleviating] human suffering, you can't ask us to do that."
"A cure is not going to help the people who are suffering today [from multiple sclerosis]."
Susan Simmons, MS sufferer
MS Centre, Victoria, B.C.
For some reason that the medical community cannot understand, Canada has the greatest number per capita of people diagnosed with the central nervous system disease that the MS Society represents. One hundred thousand Canadians suffer from multiple sclerosis, the highest incidence of any country in the world. And the MS Society exists to serve that large demographic. To do so they have in the recent past offered to those whose interests they represent a venue for affordable physiotherapy and specialized exercise facilities.

The centre operated by the B.C. chapter of the MS Society operated as a template for what was assumed would be expanded services throughout the country. Now that template, in Victoria, B.C., is gone. The centre was closed last week leaving over 100 people in a province with 1,500 suffering from MS abandoned and the building that served them is now for sale. Simply put, the MS Society has decided to drop its emphasis on service to people with MS and focus instead on funding research into a cure for multiple sclerosis.

Along with deciding to focus on research funding, the MS Society made a decision to sell its properties and to use the proceeds of those sales for the funding of MS research. MS administrators have informed their members that they will lobby government at various levels to begin providing the type of services that the Society has been offering, instead. Which included physiotherapy services and grants funding housekeeping, snow shovelling, transportation and incontinence supplies.

Decades ago, the federal government announced that it would be cutting back on its funding of charitable medical organizations, to leave them with the responsibility to raise their operational funding from the private sector. Now, a charitable medical group is seeking to reverse that reality, unilaterally. With governments cash-strapped to provide the essential services they do maintain, how likely is it that they will obligingly take on yet another financial burden?

A reality that leaves the MS Society looking unctuously insincere. "We always assumed that the MS Society would roll this out [the type of services offered to MS clients in Victoria] across the country and start giving people the rehab that they need", complained another client of the Victoria centre. Typically, once local chapters close to consolidate operations, former clients find they can no longer afford the use of a gym. "It's more lonely. You don't get to get together with anybody", said Teresa Inger, in St. Thomas, Ontario. "It's sad", said the legally blind woman.

It is well worth noting that of the funding the MS Society receives, only 44 percent is used for charitable programs. Nine percent is spent on 'management' and administration, while 40 percent goes to fundraising costs. The latest MoneySense report on Canadian charities list the MS Society as having earned an overall grade of C+ for effectiveness, and a D for charity efficiency. Its top-paid executive earned over $350,000 in 2015, with eight other employees earning between $160,000 and $250,000. Nice work if you can get it....

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