Frustration abounds about rebuild, but optimism for proposed services
By Mike Williscraft
On points with which Hamilton Health Sciences has control, president and CEO Rob MacIsaac was definitive last Thursday in laying out the future for West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.
In the areas in which the HHS does not control its own destiny his answers heightened frustration.
A packed Grimsby Activity Centre, 250 seated and another 100-plus standing, hinged on every word as MacIsaac rolled through a detailed presentation: the results of its Our Healthy Future project.
The goal of the project was to arrive and a locally driven plan to outline care mandates within the six-hospital HHS system.
Keys to the HHS’s long-term plan for WLMH include:
• 24-hour emergency care
• maternal and newborn program
• community surgery program
• Community Medicine, which includes integrated primary care, healthy aging and seniors care, specialty clinics, and advanced diagnostics.
The latter would include installation of a CT scanner for local use, which drew a round of applause from the crowd.
MacIsaac even prefaced the entire night’s proceedings by offering a clear and unequivocal statement right off the top.
“It is a priority for us to get the whole facility replaced. We are intending to rebuild the hospital,” said MacIsaac.
As well, MacIsaac noted that residents in WLMH’s catchment area would also have “access to (HHS’s) vast network of premium care at all of our sites.”
At that point in the evening, the intention was to allow those in attendance to break into smaller groups and discuss with the many experts on hand for each of the main services to be maintained in Grimsby.
Story boards and representatives for each specialty had been assembled.
But the massive turnout changed the agenda for the evening and MacIsaac thought it best to allow those in on hand to ask questions and voice concerns, while he would do his best to give detailed answers where possible.
Michael Rozender was the first to speak.
“I think I speak for everyone here when I tell you how frustrated we are. You have not mentioned anything here about time frames,” said Rozender.
“I won’t promise what I cannot control,” said MacIsaac, noting the service outline he had just laid out would go to the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) for its approval in June and if all goes well the proposal would get the Ministry of Health in the fall.
“We’re the ones trying to keep the facility together. We are moving as expeditiously as possible.”
MacIsaac extracted the proposed expansion of day surgery services for WLMH as an example of how the board is looking to entrench a future for WLMH.
He called upon Leslie Gauthier, director of surgery – one of many department heads and senior administrators on hand that night to field questions – to explain the proposal.
Gauthier said WLMH would see its operating suites expanded from two to six and the focus of procedures there would be of the low-risk variety – gall bladder, hernia repair, and scopes, among others.
She noted the change with respect to new equipment in the last year, adding, “so thank you for the fundraising that has allowed this to happen.”
While HHS officials did their best to provide specifics to an attentive crowd, many points were impossible to nail down, said MacIsaac, because much of their plans still has to be approved by the LHIN and, ultimately, the Ministry of Health.
Intense, heartfelt questions about transportation for both patients and loved ones who wish to see family members while in hospital were peppered. As well, concerns about the number of beds to be available for short- and long-term stays were also served up.
MacIsaac said Dr. Joan Bellaire is in the process of working on the number of beds aspect and noted “there is no view to change to any type of private health care.”
He did say the job of the whole HHS system to provide the best overall care for patients and, regarding beds, they need to find a spot within all their sites which would allow a patient to get the best care available.
Virtually all questions were tied, somehow, to WLMH’s physical plant and its future.
“With St. Catharines getting their new hospital and Niagara Falls looking like something will happen sooner than later, where do you (HHS) stand in as overall Ontario priority?” asked one attendee.
HHS vice-president capital planning Kelly Campbell told the crowd the process to get to a shovel in the ground after MOH approval for a build finally comes would be about five years.
The crowd was not happy with the MOH.
Grimsby Ald. Steve Berry asked what could citizens do to gain the attention of the provincial government.
While some in the crowd shouted things such as “let’s block the QEW” and “let’s head to Queen’s Park”, MacIsaac noted, “The community has put its money where its mouth is”, and added that residents can work through MPP Tim Hudak.
Hamilton Health Sciences president and CEO Rob MacIsaac presented HHS’s vision, then answered any and all questions. Williscraft – Photo