Wallaceburg’s hospital was the topic of a Sydenham District Hospital members meeting held last week at the UAW Hall. The members heard about how the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is facing a $1.8 million deficit and that a plan is in the works to fill that gap.
Colin Patey, president and CEO of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, said during the meeting that “everything has to be on the table” when looking at making up that deficit, including looking at the future of the emergency room in Wallaceburg.
The Sydenham Current caught up with Patey following the meeting. Here is our full interview with Patey:
Reaction and thoughts following the meeting
Patey said the meeting went the way he was expecting.
“This community has saw a lot of its services diminish, in health care in particular,” he said.
“That would cause a lot of anxiety. I think the anxiety came to the hall tonight and I would hope that we were able to say that ‘here’s what we are doing, here’s where we are going, here’s the law of the land and that together we will come out of this with the best solution.'”
Patey added: “That required at times challenging some negativity, some attempts to wrongly point the fingers. I think overall, this level of transparency, honesty and authenticity will enable us to continue with more communications, more planning to do the right thing and submit the right plan to the Ministry on time. I hope that time is going to be in time to get the ribbon cut on some new facility, worth at least $10 million, before the next election.”
The Ministry of Health is changing the healthcare system
Patey said the Ministry of Health has been straightforward.
“It says ‘we are going to fund healthcare in the right place for people to be able to get care at the right time by the right provider and that’s not hospitals. Hospitals are not to meet the expectations of people when they should be going elsewhere like to the community health centre or to their family doctor.'”
“So they are not going to put the money into hospitals and they have demonstrated it. They have changed the funding formula and we have been getting zero increases. Community health services have been able to get up to a 4% increase on a year-by-year basis. So they have shown their determination to change the health care system. Giving the money to hospitals on a regular basis and on an increasing basis year after year, is not sustainable.”
Patey said the Ministry is following through with this concept.
“People just need to listen, they need to hear what they are saying,” he said.
“I put it out there tonight. I said ‘this is the reality’. You either maximize what you can get out of that and in our case, if there is a $10 million opportunity to build something new in Wallaceburg, then I think we should go after it.”
Patey added: “Given that we also have an operating deficit problem, we should design a health care emergency services for all of Chatham-Kent that meets what the Ministry is funding. Otherwise, the board will be out of a job, I will be out of a job because if we don’t balance the budget, the Ministry does have that latitude to say ‘you are not doing your job and we are the payers.'”
Addressing the Wallaceburg ER closure rumours
Patey discussed the rumours of the Wallaceburg ER facing a closure.
“I will address it but I can only address it in this context… to Coun. (Jeff) Wesley and a few others, 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. 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.”
“So when we ended up with a $1.8 million deficit this year because we got less funding than we had got in the previous year… I said to Sheldon Parsons, the chair ‘Sheldon, everything has to be on the table’.”
Patey added: “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. So Sheldon participated in the finance committee and remember, you can run but you can’t hide from this issue anymore and I am being totally honest with you.”
Patey said the CKHA has been in communication again with the Ministry, at their capital branch, who told them 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 Hoskins can make that decision.”
Patey said the plan they put in place will be done in conjunction with community partners, namely the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Community Health Centres.
“That’s what we are working on,” he 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.”
No set timeline in place
Patey said he cannot provide a definitive timeline, at the moment, for a new project in Wallaceburg.
“I don’t live in the world of people that thinks that things are sequential and that you can make commitments at my level and those kind of things,” Patey said.
“I know there is an interest in wanting to have definitive answers but so much of these things, variables are out of our control. The very first thing we have to do is submit it to the LHIN. They like it or they don’t. It’s wide open to them what instructions they give us. What time they would like us to go back to the community.”
Patey added: “The only thing I do know is that at some point in this process we are going to have an elaborate community engagement process. Town hall meetings, focus groups and present the plans. The community does need to be informed but we are not at the stage yet. As much as I would like to be able to tell, I can’t tell what I don’t know. You saw it here tonight, if you tell somebody something here and then it changes, even whether or not you had any responsibility for it, people are going to try and hold you accountable. That’s not being a good cooperative partner. Myself and my leadership team are here to provide our expertise in designing the best health care system we can for the money that the Ministry is giving us.
Patey said it is important for everyone to understand everyone’s respective role.
“Don’t label me that somehow or another it is going to be my decision,” he said. “It’s not going to be my decision to close the emergency department in Wallaceburg. What I can influence is to be very vocal, be very assertive in saying that if and when or whatever that if the emergency room does close, we got to have something else in place. This is what we are working on. The inevitable is going to happen. The building is going to demolish. I have a car in the driveway, the old clunker is going to die on me sometimes. I mean, everybody lives that kind of life.”
The SDH board is set to gather for another members meeting on April 19, at the UAW Hall at 5 p.m.
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