The message from both the crowd and presenters was clear on Thursday night (April 7) inside the packed UAW Hall – Wallaceburg needs 24-hour emergency care.
“I hear fear and I heard upset from the entire community that they wouldn’t be able to access local health care services,” said Shirley Roebuck, the chair of the newly formed Wallaceburg Health Coalition.
“It is not good enough to put in a walk-in clinic in Wallaceburg and expect people’s health care needs to be served by that. That’s actually ridiculous. When you think of the catchment area of Wallaceburg which is approximately 25,000 plus Walpole Island First Nation, plus the town of Wallaceburg and Dresden etc. People need a full service emergency here. It has been proven tonight by the stories that people have told.”
Roebuck said the nurses and doctors that work in the ER at Sydenham District Hospital have hundreds of stories about how they have actually helped people.
“What is the price of a life? How much money can be saved at the expense of a life? That’s what is going to happen if there is inadequate health care services in a community. People are going to be hurt,” Roebuck said.
“I think of little kids with croup at 3 a.m., I think of fellas coming in with heart attacks, I think of motor vehicle accidents or ATV’s. How many accidents are caused by those and not just broken arms. They have head injuries and serious internal injuries. We are here to stabilize people and to transport people to the place they need to go.”
Roebuck said the next steps for the Wallaceburg Health Coalition – which is awaiting approval to officially add Walpole Island First Nation to the name of the group – is to take their fight to Queen’s Park.
“The next step is to continue on with publicizing our efforts,” she said. “We are going to be organizing for a spring referendum with the Ontario Health Coalition. We are going to be asking a simple question: ‘Do you like the hospital cuts? Do you want the hospital cuts to stop?’
Roebuck added: “Specifically for Wallaceburg, on April 18 we are holding a day of action at Queen’s Park. A delegation from the Wallaceurg Health Coalition will be going to Queen’s Park with the help of the community. I certainly would appreciate people who have the ability to travel to Queens Park. Perhaps a mini van or a handicap van to help people get down to Queens Park.”
The group plans to meet with opposition leaders, Conservation and NDP.
“We are going to ask the opposition members to be asking questions in the house directed at the Health Minister and Kathleen Wynne,’ she said.
“After that we will be meeting with the Ministry of Health’s top aids to tell them about our unique needs in this community.”
Roebuck said part of the blame for this situation falls to the Government of Ontario, while part of the blame falls onto the shoulder of Chatham-Kent Health Alliance CEO Colin Patey.
“The problem has been cause by Provincial Government inadequately funding hospitals,” she said. “That is true but there are other communities within the Province of Ontario who have actually made their small rural hospitals vibrant and expanded services. I mean anyone who drives by the hospital (in Wallaceburg) can see that the windows are in disrepair. The whole building is in disrepair and someone let that happen. I believe that blame goes to Colin Patey.”
Roebuck said she was pleased with the turnout on Thursday night, as many people signed up to join the Wallaceburg Health Coalition.
Several people took the podium on Thursday to provide their opinion and thoughts, including Wallaceburg councillor and long-time hospital advocate, Jeff Wesley.
“This came to me from a doctor who told me in confidence. That doctor said in all the years they have working out of the ER in Wallaceburg, they have had several instances where they are the difference between life or death,” Wesley told the crowd.
“We all know that time is a critical factor and yes you will have someone at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance saying you know what, yes we have more emergency doctors and more equipment over in Chatham. That’s fine… if you want to have it set up in Wallaceburg that in certain situations the person comes in and you are that first instant and that stabilizer and they need to go to Chatham, London or wherever for that additional care, that’s fine. I just want the life saved, I want the life stabilized.”
Wesley added: “I always use the example that a grandson or granddaughter that has an allergic reaction or something of that nature and you need to get to them ASAP. This doctor told me, he said ‘Jeff, I am telling you right now based on my experience at the ER department in Wallaceburg, if you close the emergency department and start shipping everything to Chatham 100%, there are people that are going to die.’ Bottom line. To him that would be 15 to 20 additional deaths per year based on his knowledge. If he had told me that we would lose one additional life, that would be one too many… that could be any of our people that we love. Our kids, family, friends, relatives.”
Wesley said he wishes meeting like the one on Thursday didn;t have to happen.
“I know that everybody who is involved in this is geared up to do what we have to do,” he said.
“It is all of you that allows the rest of us to be successful because if we didn’t have the community behind us, everybody involved in these fights would simply brush this off. But they know that everything we do, every step
we take, every time we irritate somebody and every time we do something with some sort of a tactic, they know we have the community behind us 100%. We are going to keep fighting.”
Wesley added: “We seem to get these challenges all the time. we have got a pretty good winning record on them and with the leadership from the Sydenham District Hospital Board, the Coalition, S.O.S and everybody else in
the community, we can do it again. Stick with us. When we tell you we need you to be somewhere, do what
you have always done…. show up and I guarantee on the 19th it will be well worth attending and spread the word to get everybody here.”
Wesley was referring to an April 19 meeting of the Sydenham District Hospital Board, where the public is invited to attend. The meeting will take place at the UAW Hall starting at 5 p.m.
Conrad Noel, the vice-chair of the Sydenham District Hospital board, was in attendance on Thursday night.
He said the turn out was fantastic.
“It sets the tone for the April 19 meeting that the emergency has to be kept open and also the community has to be involved,” he told the Sydenham Current.
“This is why we recruited so many people for the membership again tonight. I think we had about 40 people that registered just this evening, which is fantastic.”
Noel said the SDH board is planning to present their plan moving forward at the April 19 meeting.
“We are dialoguing now as far as what we should have, what we need and also where do we get the money to build,” he said. “So we are looking at partnerships as well because that $10 million the government is offering also has to be approved by the partners… so we are looking that as a joint venture for our hospital but for the hospital first, the ER first.”
With the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance facing a $1.8 million shortfall, Colin Patey, the President and CEO of the Health Alliance, told a crowd in Wallaceburg on March 23 that “everything has to be on the table” when looking at making up that deficit.
The meeting on Thursday night included well over 100 people from the community.
More details and coverage:
Advocacy group formed: New hospital advocacy group holding town-hall meeting
Full interview with CKHA CEO: CKHA president discusses Wallaceburg hospital situation
March 23 meeting recap: ‘Everything has to be on the table’
LIVE coverage of March 23 meeting: Wallaceburg hospital meeting at the UAW Hall
MPP bringing concerns to Queen’s Park: MPP: ‘The community spoke loud’
March 23 meeting preview: Doubts arising about Wallaceburg’s ER future
CKHA facing deficit: CKHA board meeting highlights
Imagine project background: New direction for a brand new Wallaceburg hospital