By Mike Wiliscraft
While weekend closures of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s operating rooms (OR) have taken root, OR nurses were told last week a six-week closure could be coming as early as this Fall.
The announcement set off another round of concern for staff and WLMH supporters that the operating room – and by connection – the obstetrics department may be on life support.
Interviews with both Hamilton Health Sciences president Rob MacIsaac and/or vice-president, communications Aaron Levo were requested to clarify the situation, but would only provide answers to written questions.
As has happened many times since “patient safety” was held up as justification for what was initially announced as a need for a 27-month closure in October 2018, misinformation rolls out.
When questioned about an HHS manager making comments like services are “likely to move”, Levo did not deny the comment but stuck with the management team’s standard line of comment.
“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,” wrote Levo.
There are two major aspects to the pending work which may be done this summer and fall: initially work will deal with sterile supply storage while air handling/humidity control will be a much more onerous task for fall.
“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.
However, the minutes from the May 15 meeting note, “If work proceeds will likely require closure of the unit for a period of time-approx 6 weeks at this time is best guess”, and there is “no timeframe on how long this work will take yet.”
The minutes also note there is “concern and distrust that nursing was not included in the transition workgroup”.
It is noted that copies of a recently completed report analyzing the current state of WLMH from a patient safety perspective were requested. That request was denied citing confidentiality and NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) are in place. However, copies of that report were not only sent, in error, to people who did not sign NDAs but who are not even HHS employees, according to one WLMH staff member.
As well, “Staff present at the meeting expressed concern that the unit is closing and leadership reiterated there is no intent to close the obstetrical unit at this time.”
Levo noted “all parties are in agreement” that upgrades are needed to WLMH and “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.”
When asked if the closures which have been proposed fulfill the Ministry of Health’s proclamation that all services will be maintained at WLMH until the rebuild is complete, Levo wrote, “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.”
To review the complete text of the Q&A with Levo, as well as the full text of the minutes from the HHS meeting with the OR nurses, check: