Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Progress with Southern Tier Mayors re: NHS

You will recall that in early May, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS.

 Several of Dr. Smith’s 23 recommendations dealt with facilities. Dr. Smith recommended that in addition to the new St. Catharines facility currently under construction, the NHS should construct a new general acute care hospital as well as a free standing Urgent Care Centre in “South Niagara” and close the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Dr. Smith estimated that this preferred option would cost $879 million in capital, but would “save” $9.5 million in annual operating expenses (on annual budget of $410 million).

His report also identified that a revitalized status quo – 3 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines, Welland), 3 complex care sites (NOTL, Fort Erie, Port Colborne) and 2 Urgent Care Centres (Fort & Port) – would cost $883 million in capital upgrades and “save” only $2 million in more efficient operations.

The hybrid option – 2 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines), 1 Ambulatory & Urgent Care Centre (Welland) and 2 Complex Care Sites (Fort & Port) – would cost $1,165 million in upgrades and “save” $2.8 million in operations.

Dr. Smith stated that the consolidation in his preferred option leads to a “critical mass of clinical activity”, simplifies physician and staff coverage, and better attracts health-care “learners”.

Finally, he recommended that the “Mayors of the ‘Southern Tier’ with input from the Regional Chair” recommend to him the locations for the new Hospital and the stand-alone Urgent Care Centre in the “South”. He suggested that “population density and access” be the primary considerations in our recommendation. (Please see www.niagarahealth.on.ca/supervisor for your copy of the report.)

This group of Mayors and the Chair has met three times. During our first meeting we agreed upon how we would approach our task. In the second meeting, we spoke directly to Dr. Smith and with the Medical Officer of Health and EMS and GIS staff. Last week, we met to review the work of Regional staff and sought additional information. We will meet again during the week of June 4 – just in time for our June 15 deadline.

While we deliberate, I would like to hear directly from you. What additional criteria do you think should be considered in our Mayoral recommendation? What about the impact on communities, or travel times for visitors, or the impact on allied health professionals? What is the priority or ranking of these criteria?

While I have heard from a handful residents already, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts. Please email me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca. You can also email Dr. Smith directly with your suggestions at nhssupervisor@gmail.com.