Q&A with HHS clears up some misinformation

(Editor’s Note): Below is the full set of responses to written questions posed to Hamilton Health Sciences president and CAO Rob MacIsaac and vice-president communications Aaron Levo. Although phone interviews were requested, HHS requested written questions and only provided the written answers below. This left no opportunity to for follow up to questions which were not answered. There is a lot of rumour in the community, some of the information below should clear the air and set the record straight.

Responses to Mike Williscraft

Q: What is happening, overview?

HHS, our doctors and staff are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to determine the best solutions to meet required standards for infection control in the surgical and obstetrical areas of our facility. We need to implement proper restricted zones and create new areas to store surgical supplies, among other issues. We are trying to determine which solutions would have the least amount of impact on our services and preserve them at the site with minimal interruption.

Q: I have heard from several parties over several months things have progressed slowly or not at all regarding possible work-arounds for solutions to problems with the OR, namely air circulation and storage of sterile materials. Generally, all agree these matters require immediate attention, but there has been no consensus or agreement on how that should be done. The word “stonewalling” has been a constant. Comments attributed to Sharon Pierson yesterday were, “the doctors’ leadership team and all parties agree”. What I understand is the parties agree on the issues at hand, but NOT the manner in which they are to be handled.

Can you clarify?

All parties are in agreement that we can’t continue in the current state. Collaborative work is happening between our doctors, staff and the Ministry of Health and Long Term to determine the best way to fix the most serious like maintaining infection control standards in the surgical areas, while minimizing the impact on the community and on our WLMH team. We’re looking carefully at every proposed solution and working as quickly as possible.

Q: If less intrusive, less impactful options were presented at the review committee, which achieved the desired goals (as I have been informed exist), why would they not be implemented?

These are not easy issues to solve and we want to get this right. The age of the facility poses some limitations. We are working to find options that limit the impact on our services.

Q: Yesterday, attributed to a combination of you, Aaron, and Sharon, I was informed of comments such as “We need to move services”, and more services were “likely to be moved”, and more services are “likely to move” Can you please confirm the accuracy of these comments as well as the scope and long-term plans with any closure or transfer of services?Granted you may have covered this is #1, but following through.

Our goal is to protect and maintain services at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital until it is rebuilt. In the meantime, we cannot ignore the safety issues that have been identified and pose infection control risks. We are still looking at the options available to us to fix this problem, including renovations, and will share the outcome of the work very soon. We are striving to keep any service disruptions limited to the shortest amount of time possible.

Q: The Minister of Health and Premier have both repeatedly stated services will be maintained at WLMH. Do you feel your handling of the situation has fulfilled this edict?

All of our planning is focused on keeping services in the community for many years to come. That’s what this process is all about.

Q: Any other comments or information you would like to communicate to WLMH’s catchment area?

We are grateful to the community, our staff, medical staff and volunteers for their daily dedication to our patients and we are thankful the government’s ongoing support. WLMH has a bright future and we will continue to work together to find solutions to our current challenges until we can cut the ribbon on a brand new hospital.

Here are responses to your additional questions below:

Q: I just had a call stating OB staff were told yesterday of long-term (2-3 months) closures with retirement, buy outs, of vacation told to them as alternatives….is this accurate? 

No. It is not accurate. We are investigating the need for a short-term renovation project that would be weeks in duration, not months. This is to upgrade the areas of the hospital where we store sterile surgical supplies. We have held transparent discussions with our OB and surgical nursing staff about this project. No jobs will be lost and no buy-outs have been offered or discussed. The Ontario Nurses Association collective agreement guides all decisions about staffing during any temporary disruption of services.

Q. If there are better, cheaper, simpler, less impactful alternatives to closures (recognizing they are band-aids needed for a few years) then why would they not be implemented? If they don’t work, it would be understood.

It is absolutely not true that our team has refused to consider a variety of options. We have considered dozens of options and ideas brought forward by our physicians and staff, also the Ministry and other outside experts, to address the various infection control standards we need to meet at the site. Many of these ideas are now being implemented. Our planning is not done yet and it would be irresponsible to discuss details in the newspaper until HHS and our WLMH site team have decided exactly what is happening and when. We are working hard to make those decisions in the weeks ahead.

All of our planning is based on making decisions that will allow us to continue to provide obstetrical and surgical care in our community, and address the risks of working in an old building. We are all committed to keep programs and services at WLMH through this process and carry them over into our new hospital. 

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