The future of the emergency room at Wallaceburg’s hospital has once again come into question.
The chair of the Sydenham District Hospital board says a “high level” report will be presented to members on Wednesday, while the chair of a local hospital advocacy group fears the ER is set to be closed.
Health Coalition concerned
Shirley Roebuck, chair of the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition, says she thinks the closure of the ER at the Sydenham Campus will be announced at Wednesday’s meeting at the UAW Hall.
“I think they are going to announce that because of budget deficits, they are going to change the emergency department into an urgent care facility,” Roebuck told the Sydenham Current. “That means we’re closing a 24/7, full servicing emergency room and what are we getting in return… a glorified walk-in clinic.”
Along with various conversations she has had, Roebuck said her claims are based on comments made by Sheldon Parsons, chair of the Sydenham District Hospital board, in the Wallaceburg Courier Press.
High level report being presented
Parsons told the Sydenham Current he doesn’t plan on addressing Roebuck’s comments. However, he said a presentation is being made at Wednesday’s meeting.
“What we are providing is a high level report to our members, which is going to indicate that we have a significant deficit to overcome,” Parsons said.
“We need to adjust our services and our expenses to bring ourselves into line with the revenues we are provided… we can’t run deficits. We have a requirement to do that. We’re in the process of determining what that is going to look like… what impact that will have on services across Chatham-Kent.”
Parsons added: “Certainly the membership is aware and the community should be aware that we are working on a replacement building, to replace what we’ve got at the hospital building itself. That building is past its useful life. We need to do something else to provide those services and find a different location to provide those services from. Again, we’re providing a high level report on what the deficit looks like and the steps we need to take in order to keep our operations in line. That is the information we want to share with the membership.”
The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) forecasted a total year end deficit of $1.8 million… this comes after the CKHA was told they would be getting $2.5 million less than what they were expecting from the province this year.
“This creates a lot of problems for us,” Parsons said. “We have a responsibility to maintain our operation in a balanced budget realm and because of that we need to make some changes to the services that we provide.”
Parsons said CKHA staff have been busy looking at what they can do to bring their expenses into line with their revenues.
“We don’t even yet know all of the details,” Parsons said. “Staff are working on business cases still. We will have a high level presentation to the members, and we’ll follow that up in April where we will provide more detail about what we’re facing and what we need to move on.”
Parsons said he expects to hear more about the details within the next couple of weeks.
“The province is very anxious to see communities collaborate with healthcare partners and because of that we may be looking at a co-location for facilities as opposed to a stand alone. A co-mingling of services so there is no duplication of effort and ensuring we are maximizing the services that are provided to the community. All of that is going to be built-in to the solution that we bring forward.”
Negative affect from potential ER closure
Roebuck said closing the ER in Wallaceburg would have many negative consequences.
“All ambulances will bypass an urgent care and go on to emergency,” she said.
“I think people are going to have longer waits for care. I believe the Chatham ER will be overwhelmed… that emergency has to close themselves to ambulances several times per week as it is. To increase the number of ambulances going there, it is going to be pretty bad.”
Roebuck added: “I believe it will negatively affect the farming community, with them being in outlying areas and it will be a longer trip to an emergency room. I believe Walpole Island First Nation is not well-served by just having an urgent care centre, they really deserve, as does the town of Wallaceburg, an emergency room. I think our whole community deserves a vibrant, local hospital that can take care of the communities needs.”
Roebuck added she wants to see the Sydenham District Hospital board “stop supporting plans” given to them by Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and the Local Health Integration Network, and to “represent the people of Wallaceburg.
“I believe this is a decision made solely on cost saving and not on patient care,” she said.
MPP questions Minister of Health
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton brought the issue forward during question period at Queen’s Park on Monday.
“Over the last week, people in Wallaceburg and throughout Chatham-Kent have told me that they are worried about the future of the Sydenham District Hospital’s emergency department,” McNaughton said.
See the video of McNaughton’s exchange with Ontario’s Minister of Health, Eric Hoskins:
Wallaceburg councillor support ER staying in Wallaceburg
Wallaceburg Coun. Jeff Wesley, a long-time advocate for healthcare services in Wallaceburg, said he plans on being in attendance for the Wednesday meeting.
“If there is any indication that our life saving emergency department will be affected, I will be extremely upset and will not accept that,” Wesley told the Sydenham Current.
“Lots of places for the CKHA bureaucrats to cut before they touch our life saving ER. The SDH Board better stand up for Wallaceburg as well.”
Meeting is open to the public
Parsons said Conrad Noel, the vice-chair of the Sydenham District Hospital board, will be chairing Wednesday’s meeting and he will be receiving staff support from Colin Patey, CEO of the CKHA, and Sarah Padfield, VP and CFO for the CKHA.
Parsons said the meeting will start at 5 p.m. at the UAW Hall in Wallaceburg and is open to anyone in the public.
He said membership forms will be available at the meeting as well.
Watch for more on this story.