With the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance facing a $1.8 million shortfall, their CEO told a crowd in Wallaceburg on Wednesday night that “everything has to be on the table” when looking at making up that deficit.
Following a two-hour meeting at the UAW Hall in Wallaceburg, Colin Patey told the Sydenham Current he had never discussed the potential closure of the emergency room in Wallaceburg… up until this year.
“I was able to say up until this year that at no time and no place, nor have I observed that there has been any discussion about the closure of the emergency department,” Patey said.
“Yet of course that was always a rumour in the community. It was a wrong rumour. However, this year, things changed. As I was honest before, I was honest this year.”
Patey said the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance has been hit with a $1.8 million deficit after receiving $2.5 million less funding from the Province of Ontario compared to the previous year.
“I said to Sheldon Parsons, the chair (of the Sydenham District Hospital board), everything has to be on the table,” Patey said.
“I can darn well say now that given what we know that we are out of the funding latitude by some 30% variance on the emergency services, that has to be on the table for talking, planning and for change. You can run but you can’t hide from this issue anymore and I am being totally honest with you.”
Advocating for the Wallaceburg ER
The CKHA is obligated to deliver a balanced budget plan to the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN.)
Patey said during the meeting what the LHIN chooses to do once the plan is presented, is up to them.
“We will present the best plan that we can,” Patey told the crowd.
“One of the things I’ll be advocating for, in every corner that I find myself in, is that you do not make an agreement, you do not make a decision to close the emergency department in Wallaceburg until there is something else in place that is going to look after safety, access, and if we can, improving the quality of care. The board knows that, they trust me to be advocating for that. I’ll make that statement to the LHIN.”
Working on $10 million plan
As was reported in November, Patey told the Sydenham Current following the meeting that the capital branch of the Ministry of Health said there is a $10 million opportunity “to build something different in Wallaceburg.
“Put plans together, submit it to us, do it in conjunction with other community providers and we think that we have a very good chance to get it approved because it doesn’t have to go to cabinet. The Ministry itself can make this decision. Minister (Eric) Hoskins can make that decision,” Patey said.
The plan moving forward would be in conjunction with other partners, including the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centres, who Patey says the CKHA is already working with pragmatically..
“That’s what we are working on,” Patey said.
“It takes steps. We’ve got to be respectful that we have these other partners involved. I think we are stronger because of it and I think it’s necessary when you don’t have all the money you would want that you find ways to cooperatively and collaboratively work with everybody else who has got the same mission, which is to provide the best health care for our community. Not just hospital care, but the best health care for the community. To work with them to see what we can come up with and that’s what we are doing.”
ER or nothing
Conrad Noel, vice-chair of the SDH board, said it doesn’t make sense to close the ER in Wallaceburg.
However, he said it needs to be looked at in a new light.
“The ER is not closing… number one, because Chatham cannot handle it,” Noel said during the meeting. “One of the things we find about the ER, it’s expensive. You have to have staff, it’s much greater than just having a campus of care or when you walk into your family doctors office.”
Following the meeting, Noel told reporters he believes an emergency room needs to be included in any plan moving forward.
“We want an ER or nothing, Noel said.
“If we can’t get an ER than we may as well all resign. I would resign and go back to SOS. As an SOS member I have the political route to stir up the situation. As a director I have to follow protocol. I think it also gives the board a message that you have to stick up for the ER.”
SDH meeting coming up in April
The SDH board is set to gather for another members meeting on April 19, at the UAW Hall at 5 p.m.
Kris Lee, a SDH board member, said during the meeting that public pressure can influence decisions made by the government.
“I want to see 700 people here,” Lee said.
“I want to get 1,000 members in this community. I think the government checks to see which way the wind is blowing. And if the wind is blowing where there is a lot of people that are commanding something for their community… we’re not going to get a mega-hospital… but we are going to get something that we want. I want to know what you want to hear, I don’t want someone in Toronto saying you need this facility and you need that. This community should be telling the board how that facility should look, including the ER. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Herb John, a SDH board member, said the decreasing Ministry funding has put the board in a difficult position.
“Even though we may have to walk down that path… we don’t have to do so quietly,” John said.
“We don’t have to assume the end result. We’ve seen it in this community numerous times… fighting back makes a difference. People need to get on the phone, call the Minister of Health, call the Premier, call every politician you know because it makes a difference. Make noise. If they think you are conceding to the end result, they won’t change anything. There is no guarantee that making noise is going to change anything, but it is the only thing that has a possibility of changing something.”
We are working on more follow-up stories stemming from the meeting.
In the meantime, check out the LIVE coverage we provided while the meeting was taking place: