Monday, December 10, 2012

Please Stop the Health Care Bickering

Aerial photo of new North Niagara Hospital (May 2012).

On November 27, I spoke to the Chamber of Commerce about the recent progress we’ve made in the Town and about the exciting improvements that will occur in Pelham over the next couple of years.

I also discussed health care in Niagara – especially in Southern Niagara.

Those that oppose the construction of a new hospital for the Southern part of Niagara say that their community needs to maintain their local health care services.

I agreed that communities need more local health care options and services; that's why Pelham Town Council recently petitioned the Province to designate one of the future Urgent Care Centres (UCCs) in Pelham. And that’s why Council also directed staff to work with a couple of doctors who are assembling new family health teams and facilities in both Fonthill and Fenwick.

But, providing local health care options and services in 2012 shouldn’t mean we continue to follow a 1950s model of “a hospital for every community.” That now-outdated-model lead to the construction and relocation of hospitals across Southern Niagara in the 1930s and the 1950s. (Douglas Memorial was constructed in 1931; Port Colborne was constructed in 1951; GNGH was relocated in 1958; and Welland was relocated in 1960.)

You can have day surgery for something today that would have kept you in the hospital for weeks in the 1950s. And, the hundreds of procedures that are routine today, weren’t even imagined then – two-and-a-half generations ago.

Our health care facilities and system needs to adapt to the new reality of health care, and so does our thinking.

Other parts of Ontario have caught on. They realize that funding for new hospital facilities from the Province is scarce. Dr. Smith, Niagara Health System Supervisor, and Minister Matthews, Minister of Health & Long-Term Care, have said this repeatedly in Niagara this fall.

At the same time, changes to health care are not stopping. A new Northern-Niagara health care facility will be opening on March 24, 2013. The movement of services across the NHS has meant that the new Northern-hospital is much more than a local St. Catharines / Thorold / Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital as was first anticipated. This “clinical reconfiguration” and trends to “community-based health services” continue to occur regardless of South Niagara’s location debate.

So how should we react? Should we curse the change, or embrace the opportunity?

During my speech, I encouraged the Chamber and individuals to embrace Dr. Smith’s plan and work toward "…a new era focused on creating a sustainable, high quality health system” for all of Niagara.

I believe that we owe it to future generations to stop the health-care bickering in the South, to embrace the opportunities, and to move forward.