Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wanting Your Input About New Hospital

Last Thursday, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS.

Dr. Smith's 23 recommendations ranged from undertaking a national search to recruit a CEO and a Chief of Staff, to establishing a Patient Advisory Committee to ensure patient-centred care, to re-establishing the Board of Directors with "skills based" members.

Several of his recommendations dealt with facilities. Dr. Smith recommended that in addition to the St. Catharines site 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).

He also showed 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.)

 While I look forward to working with my Mayoral colleagues, I want to hear directly from you regarding this matter. (I will also seek input from Town Councillors at our May 22 meeting.)

 What additional criteria do you think should be considered in our Mayoral recommendation? Should we include other costs like the impact on the Regional EMS program, costs for new transportation infrastructure, or costs for water and waste water servicing enhancements? What about the impact on communities, or travel times for visitors, or the impact on allied health professionals (specialists, pharmacies)? What is the priority or ranking of these criteria? Are there other considerations?

 I am very interested in hearing your views; please email me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca or leave a message for me at Pelham Town Hall. You can also email Dr. Smith directly with your suggestions at nhssupervisor@gmail.com.