Monday, April 29, 2013

Hoping for a New Southern Hospital

You will recall that last May, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS. He recommended building a new Southern Hospital and asked the six Southern Mayors and the Regional Chair to recommend the site.

Based on an analysis of population densities, Emergency call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, NHS referrals, and Emergency Room usage, the Mayors and Chair unanimously suggested two geographic areas (about 8 kilometers apart) for the new hospital.

In his September 2012 final report, Dr. Smith recommended that the NHS should construct a new general acute care hospital at the Lyons Creek / QEW location – as well as two free standing Urgent Care Centres.

By closing current facilities and building new, he estimated that this preferred option would cost $879 million in capital, but would save $9.5 million in annual operating expenses. The NHS needs the savings; Dr. Smith forecasts a consolidated deficit of $29 million by 2015.
He 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.

Other options would cost substantially more, as well; for example, closing Niagara Falls site and redeveloping everything at the Welland Site would cost $1,433 million.

Providing local health care options and services in 2013 cannot mean “a hospital for every community” as it did in the 1930-50s when “Southern” communities constructed or relocated existing hospitals.

One can undergo 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 two-and-a-half generations ago.

I do believe that communities need more local health care options and services –but that may not be in the form of a hospital; that's why the Town is working with doctors who are developing new facilities and family health teams in both Fonthill and Fenwick.

Our hospitals need to quickly evolve to the new realities of health care. I hope that each of us can embrace the position of the Niagara South Medical Society and the Greater Niagara Medical Society; these doctors recently supported Dr. Smith’s call for a new hospital and suggested speedy implementation.