By Mike Williscraft
The long-awaited re-opening of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s operating rooms will roll out Sept. 14.
A Hamilton Health Sciences memo last Friday, Aug. 28 outlined what the reboot will look like, with one significant absence, no after hours obstetrics (OB) on-call.
The key issue there is a shorage of OR nurses, a major issue which should have been resolved, say local officials.
“Quite frankly, at this stage many in the community are concerned OB services will ever resume at WLMH after what will be more than a year of low OB volumes and minimal OB funding. This is a shame given how well known WLMH was for the quality of service and positive experience in our OB,” said Andrew Smith, chair of the WLMH Community Advisory Committee.
The plan does include:
• Continuing to build up OR nursing staff levels to increase on-call capabilities at WLMH and enable growth in surgical services over time; this includes the OR nurse training program currently underway, as well as ongoing, aggressive recruitment efforts;
• Resuming endoscopy procedures;
• Resuming gynecology and general surgery cases, with plans to expand to also include other surgical services that are appropriate for the WLMH day surgery model. New surgical infrastructure, such as the C-arm, creates new opportunities for the range of services that can be offered on the site, and;
• Resuming elements of obstetrics services at WLMH, such as scheduled C-sections, while maintaining a redirect of women in labour until January 2021 when we expect our nurse training graduates will be capable of supporting the on-call roster.
“It is exciting to see OR services resume at WLMH and HHS has been planning for this since the renovations began last year. I was hoping that with a year of planning HHS would have had ample time to ramp up training and get ahead of the OR staffing issues that have been a concern at WLMH for years,” added Smith.
The HHS team recognizes the significance of the milestone.
“Reopening the WLMH operating rooms is a significant milestone for the WLMH community. A lot of work has taken place to get us here, and we’re grateful for everyone who has contributed to this process along the way. This includes our clinical planning teams, program staff and physicians, contractors, community and government partners,” said Michael Stacey, HHS executive vice president, academic and chief medical executive.
“We’re pleased that a variety of surgeries and procedures, including scheduled caesarian births, will be able to restart gradually in mid-September as we build up our OR staffing levels. We know the community is eager for some after-hours obstetric on call to return to the site; we are as well. Our priority remains recruiting and training OR nurses to support this return in January.”
For WLMH Action Committee co-chair Tony Joosse, excitement is tempered with disappointment.
“I am delighted the OR construction has been completed on time and very pleased that surgeries, including scheduled C-section births and gynecology procedures, are resuming right away. So, babies will be back at WLMH in two weeks, said Joosse.”
“I am disappointed that the HHS training program for new nurses had delays due to COVID-19. These four nurses will hopefully be ready to go by January. This lack of staffing has great effect on operating a full OB department, which has and remains a concern with our community.”
With this significant piece of the WLMH puzzle in place, HHS officials will now shift their attention to delivering a CT scanner for West Niagara. Construction on that front is scheduled to start next month.