Volume 29 - Number 12 - Thursday, March 13, 1997

Senate Highlights

by Karl Jarosiewicz

Why is a Statutory Committee to Review the Principal meeting only halfway through Principal Shapiro's term? asked Professor Leanore Lieblein during the Questions and Motions by Members period at the March 5 meeting of Senate.

Lieblein asked how the procedure differed from the review of Principal David Johnston in 1993, why it was being done mid-way through Shapiro's term, and why the committee was concerned only with renewal or non-renewal of Shapiro's appointment and not with the selection of a replacement.

Her inquiry addressed concerns expressed by many members of the McGill community confused by news of the review, she said. Professor Pat Farrell, chairing in the Principal's absence, invited Chancellor Gretta Chambers to reply to the question.

Review rationale

Chambers, who heads the review committee, acknowledged that "confusion is widespread" about the purpose of the review. She noted that the statutes contain no guidelines for reviewing a Principal's mandate, only for the selection of a new candidate. The Johnston review was the only one on record and thus became the model to follow.

"We used the Noah's Ark model (two of everybody) in creating the composition of the committee." She added that "only the phrasing of the terms of reference was different."

The main reason for reviewing Principal Shapiro's performance was to establish how well placed he is to continue past a critical juncture in McGill's immediate future.

"At the end of 1999, the terms of three deans, two vice-principals, the chancellor and the principal all end on practically the same day. We just wanted to be prepared and that is the reason behind the review."

Chambers added that there is no need to look for another candidate at this time.

"I just want to make the comment that it may be hard to review Principal Shapiro, considering the shortness of his term. It's difficult to judge a difficult job" in such a narrow timeframe, said Lieblein.

MUHC ado

Presenting the 288th Report of APPC, Vice-Principal (Academic) Bill Chan invited Dean of Medicine Abe Fuks to speak about the McGill University Health Centre. Senate had struck three workgroups in "the 1994-95 academic year to consider academic implications to the University of the establishment of a new McGill University Health Centre at a site distant from the downtown campus."

The three workgroups were mandated to look at the impact of the new centre from different perspectives. Workgroup #1 considered clinical departments, workgroup #2 examined units that use hospitals for clinical training, and workgroup #3 focused on how basic sciences and University departments would be affected. Fuks stressed that it was important that the University play a major role in the planning process.

"There's been a lot of talk about a mega-hospital or super-hospital and that's not really what we're planning," said Fuks. "Rather, we're talking about a healthcare network, not necessarily in terms of a physical space.

"It's not just in response to budgetary issues. That's not the driving force. It's not just a merger either. We're talking about health care in a different setting, a different mindset." Hospitalisation, he added, is only part of the system.

Fuks said that the physical facility will require more than an architectural plan. It will have to address functional issues at the heart of current health care procedures. For instance, he cited the change in some common surgical operations. "Ten years ago, cataract surgery took four days, including hospital stay. Today it takes four hours."

He described the new system needed as tertiary care combined with a network of clinics and community facilities. "Much less time is spent in the hospitals. It's a change in the thinking about care."

He emphasized that the trend in health care is to create a continuity between pediatric and geriatric care.

"Separating these forms of health care was once advantageous, but today we'd be shortchanging both our patients and our physicians-in-training."

The planning process should culminate in 2004. The challenge, according to Fuks, is to anticipate what health care in a teaching hospital will be like over the next 20 years.

Physically, the new centre will be located within the downtown area bounded by the mountain to the north, the old port to the south, St. Laurent Boulevard to the east, and Decarie Expressway to the west. "A fairly wide area to consider."

Network connections

Among the major concerns raised by the three committees are the relationship of the new health centre to the University, agreements between the centre and the University regarding teaching activities, the disassociation between the on-campus and off-campus departments, computer networks, shared library resources and even transportation between the two geographical areas.

Students' Society vice-president Don McGowan expressed concern that "we're not being consulted enough [by the MUHC organizers] yet we're lending them credibility with the use of our name."

Fuks admitted that the University had to be concerned about the level of involvement, but noted, "That's why Senate is being asked to comment. It's not for the last time either."

Dean of Dentistry James Lund asked what the relationship between the MUHC and the University would be. Fuks replied, "Much the same as it is now. We're two corporately independent organizations with common and joint appointments."

He pointed out that the University's teaching network goes beyond the MUHC to include the Jewish General, St. Mary's, the Douglas Hospital, and CLSCs. "The Faculty of Medicine network is greater than the MUHC."

Replying to a question from Lund about amalgamation of the various hospital financial foundations, Fuks said that it's not going to be simple. In fact, because each foundation benefits from wills and estates that name them specifically, it may be very difficult to amalgamate from a legal standpoint. "The plan is to maintain separate foundations at this point."

Professor Bruce Shore drew Senate's attention to a "gap in the reports." He said that various units such as Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education and the Department of Psychology were not mentioned by name in the reports and he made a motion to have these units introduced into a new draft of the text.

Fuks answered that the chair of one of the committees was himself a psychologist. "We tend to omit our own rather than strangers."

Blueprint for change

"It's an incredibly complex task to move so many departments around," said Engineering Professor Maier Blostein. "Have you thought out the financial risks?"

"The financial plan will follow the functional plan," said Fuks. "And then we usually bring in the engineers. Also we have financial experts on our committees."

"We've been dealing with budget compressions for over a year now," continued Blostein. "How will we do this without academic compromises?"

"Costs will not be astronomically greater. In fact the cost of operations may decrease," replied Fuks. "The functional plan is much more important. The financial plan will follow. Then we'll see where we have to make compromises. But health care change is coming and the real question is how will we respond to it?"

Professor Faith Wallis stated that there were dangers in setting up "two campuses. A tendency to have better labs at the new hospital centre and poorer labs on the downtown campus could cause serious concerns about a two-tier research environment."

Chan said, "That concern exists even now."

In the immediate future, "a new process of interplay will begin between the three committees. A document will emerge over the summer," added Fuks, and he promised to keep Senate informed about all developments.

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