Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Million dollar gift exploits children?

Harland David Sanders made buckets of money selling Kentucky Fried Chicken by the bucketful. And both before and after his death (through the Colonel Sanders Charitable Organization) he has been very generous with the fortune he accumulated.

One of the foundation’s most recent gifts was to McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ont. In appreciation for the one million dollar donation, McMaster renamed a ward “The Colonel Harland Sanders Inpatient Unit” and, horror of horrors, hung a plaque of the Colonel in the hallway. Uh-huh.

Some people have taken great exception to this simple display of gratitude for what is, by any standard, a very generous gift.

Andre Picard, for example, says in a November 13 article in the Globe and Mail: “Childhood obesity is a serious, pressing health problem, so what message are we sending by renaming part of a pediatric hospital after a fast-food icon?”

The message is, and should be; ‘Thank you for your kind support. It will provide much needed funding to treat childhood obesity and other pressing health problems.’

But, according to Picard, it is unacceptable for McMaster Children’s Hospital and other public institutions to “prostitute themselves in this manner?” Says Picard: “They should be setting an example for healthy living, not shilling for fast food, however indirectly.”

Wow. McMaster a shill for the fast food industry? Because they accept private funding to provide much needed health care? And then have the audacity to say ‘Thank You’. My God, the degenerates.

He admits in his article that government does not provide adequate funding, yet, at the same time chastises a venerable health-care facility for accepting funding from private charitable foundations. But, Picard offers no alternative sources of financial support for the health care services which that million dollar gift will provide. Is he perhaps willing to write a personal cheque?

And, Picard is not alone in his condemnation of McMaster. The Globe and Mail published a letter to the editor the day after Picard’s article. The letter was written by Peter Nieman, a pediatrician. Says Dr. Nieman: “It's a huge disconnect when pediatricians accept fast-food and junk-food generated money. Until we see obesity in the same way we see smoking, we haven't even started to scratch the surface. Imagine a pediatric cardiology clinic sponsored by a tobacco company.

The only disconnect I can see is that of Picard and Nieman; disconnect from reality. Are these two really suggesting that Hospitals and other health care facilities should turn down required funding because it was generated by the fast food industry?

Says Picard: “At some point, accepting donations - charitable or otherwise - from organizations associated with fast food needs to become as unacceptable as accepting dirty dollars from the tobacco industry.” Uh-huh.

Picard should get his nose out of his computer, take a deep breath and smell the roses.

Is the fast food industry the new menace of mankind? Will the obese and the overweight soon be subjected to the same kind of demeaning de-normalization campaign as smokers? Actually, that campaign has already begun. But, that’s another topic

Picard reserves both special praise and venom for MacDonalds. “Ronald McDonald House Charities of Canada has done a tremendous service to sick children and their parents by building a dozen Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the country, offering low-cost accommodation along with numerous family rooms in pediatric hospitals (including McMaster Children's Hospital).

Again, intentions are good but, honestly, should kids with life-threatening illnesses (and their families) have to depend on burger-generated generosity for proper care? Is the fast-food giant in such desperate need of good publicity that it has to get it off the backs of gravely ill youngsters?”

The fact is that many families are dependent on the generosity which these foundations provide. Why disparage the industry providing that generosity and support. I suspect you’ll find most families and individuals utilizing these facilities are grateful.

And, if McDonalds or KFC get a little free publicity for their largesse, good luck to them.

Picard, however, thinks McMaster and other public health institutions should have nothing to do with it. “It's obvious why fast-food companies would want to be visible to children and their parents. But why would our public health system have any part of these chicken wings and clown rooms? Should we allow children, in particular, to be exploited in this manner? Sell our souls so we can spiff up a few rooms in our pediatric hospitals?

How can any rational human being suggest that providing a playroom to keep a sick kid’s mind off his/her problems is exploitive? How can a reasonable individual suggest that providing inexpensive accommodation to a parent, allowing that parent to be close to their sick child, is anything but beneficial?

How can they ignore the benefits that will accrue from the million dollar donation by the Colonel Sanders Charitable Organization?

McMaster Children’s Hospital, by accepting the gracious gift, didn’t sell their soul. They emphasized their commitment to providing high quality health care to those who need it.

Should we allow children, in particular, to be exploited in this manner?”

If it helps put a smile on a sick kid’s face? Hell, Yeah.

Note: The little girl in the graphic which accompanies this post is the youngest of my seven grandchildren. The pretty pink cast came compliments of the doctors and staff at McMaster. The smile (and the attitude) are all her own.

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