Monday, July 8, 2013

A Positive Step for a New Southern Hospital

On June 26, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati hosted a sign unveiling the “Future Site of the Niagara South Hospital: Serving Niagara” at the corner of Montrose and Lyons Creeks. The event also highlighted the generosity of the Grassl family who donated the 12 hectares of fully-serviced, shovel-ready land.

Some called the unveiling “distasteful” and “preposterous.”

Many others welcomed the announcement, calling it another “important step” in the process toward better health care.

You will recall that Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS in May 2012. He recommended building a new Southern Hospital and asked the six Southern Mayors and the Regional Chair to recommend a 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 eight kilometers apart – Lyons Creek / QEW and 406 / 140  – for the new hospital.

Dr. Smith further analyzed the two areas and, in his September 2012 final report, recommended that the NHS construct a new general acute care hospital at the Lyons Creek / QEW location. He also recommended developing two free standing Urgent Care Centres.

His report also showed that this plan would cost much less (for both operating and capital costs) and provide better, 21st century health care than all other options.

Earlier this spring, both the Niagara South Medical Society – representing Doctors in the Welland-area – and the Greater Niagara Medical Society – representing Niagara Falls area Doctors – supported Dr. Smith’s call for a new hospital and suggested speedy implementation at the recommended area.

While I believe that communities need more local health care options and services, the trends show that they will 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.

For example, plans for the Fonthill Health Centre in the East Fonthill development area were announced at Town Council in May. The physicians / developers plan for the 30,000 to 40,000 square foot “one stop integrated health care building” to begin construction in 2014 and to open in 2015.

My trip from Pelham Town Hall to the Montrose / Lyons Creek location took only 20 minutes. Given the close proximity of the new Northern Hospital and of this future Southern Hospital for Pelham, I hope that each of us can embrace the NHS’s plans, and encourage the Ministry of Health to work toward construction as soon as possible.