Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Southern Hospital, Two New UCCs

Last Friday, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented his Final Report regarding NHS restructuring to the Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Health & Long-Term Care.

Among the 23 final recommendations, Dr. Smith suggested that the Province construct a new hospital “in the QEW and Lyons Creek area of Niagara.” He suggested that the new “South Hospital” should include emergency and critical care, the Regional stroke centre, the Regional geriatrics program, the total joint replacement centre, general internal medicine and surgical services, complex care, and maternal child / in-patient pediatrics.

Smith also recommended operating two, free-standing Urgent Care Centres in “South Niagara” -- sites and locations to be determined -- and closing the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

You will recall that in May, Dr. Smith asked the “Mayors of the ‘Southern Tier’ with input from the Regional Chair” to come to a unanimous recommendation for the locations of the new Hospital and one, stand-alone Urgent Care Centre by mid-June.

The six southern mayors -- Vance Badawey, Port Colborne; Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls; April Jeffs, Wainfleet; Doug Martin, Fort Erie; Barry Sharpe, Welland; and myself -- and Regional Chair Gary Burroughs met five times and reviewed population densities, ambulance call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, NHS referrals, and ER usage.

We came to a unanimous decision and recommended two geographic areas for the new “Southern” hospital -- generally described as the QEW & Lyons Creek area, and the East Main Street and Highway 140 area. We also recommended that the NHS operate two Urgent Care Centres.

I am pleased that Dr. Smith honoured the Mayors’ and Regional Chair’s unanimous recommendations for siting of a new hospital and for the operation of two Urgent Care Centres to serve South Niagara.

I did communicate with Dr. Smith directly about the potential impact of the Lyons Creek / QEW location for Pelham residents.  When the Province builds a new hospital there, it seems likely that many Pelham residents will travel instead to the new Northern hospital. When he wrote back to me on Friday morning, Dr. Smith reaffirmed his earlier position: “I can absolutely confirm that Pelham residents will be provided care at the site they choose to use. If that is the North site we will welcome them there.”

I sincerely appreciate the significant and comprehensive work by Dr. Smith. I will now work together with colleagues from across the Region to help convince the Provincial Government to build the new facilities and embrace, as Dr. Smith writes, “…a new era focused on creating a sustainable, high quality health system” for all of Niagara.