Resignation letter of Dr. Gary Benson

Dear Colleagues:

I want to inform you that I have resigned as Medical Director for WLMH and give you my reasons for taking this action.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17 I was invited to participate in a teleconference to discuss WLMH—Next  Steps.

The teleconference was held at 5:30 p.m. and chaired by Dr. Wes Steven, the COO of HHSC. Other invitees included the Chiefs of Obstetrics, Anesthesia and Surgery, Dr. Richard McLean EVP and Chief Medical Officer, and other members of the management group at WLMH.

The meeting started with a review of the consultant’s report on steps needed to upgrade our reprocessing process at WLMH. You may recall that recent changes in standards to reprocess endoscopies made it necessary for WLMH to make changes in order to meet these new standards.

The consultant’s report stated that it would require a much larger undertaking than initially thought and would cost approximately $8.5 million and take 2 years to complete. There were also concerns that this would impact our ability to continue to use our ORs.

Based on this, the decision had been made to move our Obstetrics, Surgery and Endoscopy programs to other sites of HHSC.

I asked Dr. Steven if I had heard this statement correctly and I was  informed that I had.

I also asked if this action had been approved by the HHSC Board and was told that the plan had been presented to the Board at their last meeting for information purpose and would be voted on at the next Board meeting.

I find it very difficult to understand how this decision can be implemented without the approval of the HHSC Board.

I was shocked to hear this news and neither I or other members of the leadership team at WLMH had been consulted or informed in advance of this decision.

I was totally blindsided.

I felt that the decision was wrong and it would be a fatal blow to WLMH and to our West Niagara communities.

Later that evening, I came to the decision that I could not support this drastic move and it made it impossible for me to remain in my position as Medical Director for WLMH.

I submitted my resignation to Dr. Richard McLean the EVP and Chief Medical Officer for HHSC that same evening.

Let me explain the issues and why I feel the decision is wrong:

We have worked on the redevelopment of WLMH since 1998.

In 2005, we received provincial Cabinet approval and funding to proceed with our redevelopment.

The project was delayed a few years later when the provincial government created the LHIN system.

We were advised then that the plan for redevelopment would now require the approval of the LHIN.

LHIN approval was obtained and the process progressed to the final stages where we had met all the requirements of the ministry and were Number 2 on the list for the next developments by Infrastructure Ontario.

By late 2011, the only thing necessary was the signature of the minister of the MOHLTC.

As you know, she kept delaying this approval until we were notified in the Spring 2012 Speech from the Throne that our project was cancelled. This was, in my opinion, a politically motivated and vindictive decision.

We then had to start all over again.

We realized that as a small, independent hospital we had limited power to influence decisions by the provincial government, and started to look for partners who would be able to support us.

Our first partnership was with Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington.

This began as a clinical partnership. It was an excellent fit for us and we all worked for the next 2-3 years to partner the various clinical programs. JBH was also in the process of seeking approval to redevelop their hospital. They received the approval in 2014. Our hospital board asked the JBH Board to agree to a joint proposal to redevelop both JBH and WLMH together. The JBH Board declined to agree to this and this led to the cancellation of our partnership.

We then investigated the possibility of partnering with Hamilton Heath Sciences.

We had a management agreement with HHSC since 1998 which had worked well for us in providing most of our management and non-clinical services. The amalgamation of WLMH with HHSC was approved by our respective boards and we became a site of HHSC.

Over the next 4.5 years we have worked to integrate our programs.

HHSC asked the provincial government to consider the re-development of WLMH.

The government agreed to do so when HHSC could present a 10-20 year plan for HHSC and how WLMH fit into that plan.

Many of you participated in this plan which was titled “ OUR Healthy Future”.

It involved multiple meetings and included several consultations with the public who provided valuable advice as to what service should be provided by WLMH.

It was an excellent plan and I would encourage you to reread it.

Key features of the plan were the type of services WLMH should provide our communities. These included maintaining the Obstetrical Program to continuing to provide low-risk obstetrical care.  Surgery would be focused on same-day surgery with expansion our new hospital would increase to four ORs and two procedure room rooms.

This would allow same-day surgery from other HHSC sites to be performed at WLMH which would free up the ORs in the tertiary centers allowing them to more efficiently manage more complex surgeries. We would continue to have a 24/7 Emergency Department, and in-patient medical beds.

The proposed changes in services at WLMH completely ignores the  “Our Healthy Future” plan that we and our communities worked so hard to develop.

Patient Safety is the most important factor to consider in any decision we make as a hospital and as medical professionals.

We are taught from Day 1 in our training to “do no harm”. So is this the only answer to ensure that we continue to provide the patients we serve with the best and safest care possible?

We have always used patient safety as a guiding principle and we are always looking at ways to  ensure we continue to provide excellent and safe care. The drastic measures being implemented go way beyond what is needed to ensure patient safety is maintained.

Let me be clear: our amalgamation with HHSC was, in my view, a wise decision that has had many beneficial consequences for WLMH.

We have all worked very hard to make the amalgamation work and I have enjoyed the relationship with a very supportive and cooperative leadership group.

This most recent decision has left me shocked and bewildered.

I honestly believe that they fail to understand the consequences their decision will have on our communities.

I have always felt that WLMH is a model community hospital providing primary centered care to our communities.

The proposed changes will destroy this model of care.

I know this news will be as devastating to you as it has been to me.

Like many of you I have spent most of my professional life as a resident of West Niagara and am proud of the health care model we have developed.

Where do we go from here?

In recent months, I had grown cautiously optimistic that the redevelopment of WLMH would take place.

The recent change in government and the strong support of our political leaders in West Niagara would start to see results.

Our local MPP, Sam Oosterhoff, is now an influential member of the government and has committed to making the redevelopment of WLMH a priority.

As you know, WLMH has always had tremendous support from our communities and it will require their passionate support to have WLMH survive.

Ultimately the final decisions will be made by our political leaders.

Gary Benson

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