By Mike Williscraft
Last week marked another giant step forward for West Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s rebuild process and a step back on the adminstrative side with limited hours for obstetrics services announced.
On the rebuild side, the news could not be better with Infrastructure Ontario moving to the RFQ (request for qualifications) level. This means companies with design and construction experience – and the financial capacity to carry such a major project – apply to be added to a short list of qualified bidders. Those on that short list will be invited to submit RFPs (request for proposals) next summer when the final draft design is ready.
“This is great news for the continued progress towards the new hospital the residents of Grimsby and West Niagara deserve,” said Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff.
“Because of the tireless efforts of so many within the hospital and broader community, the new hospital has moved forward rapidly, and I am confident we will see shovels in the ground as soon as possible.”
At this point, says Tony Joosse, co-chair of the WLMH Action Committee, everything is on target for a Spring 2022 construction start.
However, getting to this point has not been without hitting some major bumps in the road.
Case in point, WLMH’s operating room and obstetrics issues continue as a shortage of nurses has not been solved over the last couple of years.
While the ORs and OBS services did partially return in September any expansion of services was put off until January. Now, Hamilton Health Sciences has announced Jan. 12 will mark the start of 24/3.5 availability.
“Our great OBS Department will be open for business Tuesdays, 7 a.m. until Fridays at 3 p.m.,” said Joosse.
As noted in a NewsNow story in October, this will force Lincoln Community Midwives program to relocate to St. Catharines. The organization had given notice to HHS officials at that time stating that unless 24/7 care OR service returned to WLMH by January, they would have to move.
Still, the process moves along ever so slowly.
“Saturday marked the second anniversary of Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton and our MPP Sam Oosterhoff’s announcement we are building a new WLMH hospital at the same site! This was the start of a very long process,” noted Joosse.
“Thanks to our hospital staff and HHS staff – along with the support of the government – we have completed a $14 million investment in WLMH to upgrade our two ORs and our OBSdepartments. Our ORs have been operating since September and we are seeing great increases in procedures being completed including the return of colonoscopies.”
Joosse noted HHS has developed a new internship program which trained four nurses to work in the ORs.
“Although COVID-19 impacts delayed training we are almost ready for the opening on Jan. 12,” he said.
Local officials believe the rebuild ultimately holds the key to attracting enough nurses to staff a 24/7 OR.
Currently, WLMH is three part-time or two full-time nurses short of being able to boost services to 24/5 care, which is a short-term goal.
In the meantime, HHS will take its victories where it can, and the RFQ step is a key one.
“This is a significant milestone toward redeveloping West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. In less than a year, this project has progressed from initial planning stages to finding a builder for the new hospital,” said Rob MacIsaac, president & CEO of HHS.
“We’re thankful for the ongoing commitment of our government partners, the community and our team who keep this project on track and moving quickly towards the finish line.”
And while the marathon has been years, decades, in the making, Joosse, too, recognizes the community is inching towards its goal.
“It’s been a very long process with many bumps in the road, but with the continued co-operation of HHS, Ontario’s government through Sam and our great staff at WLMH, progress is being made,” said Joosse.
“Understand, normally what we have accomplished – One Team, One Dream – would take many, many years. We have reached this point in only two years.”