Sunday, October 17, 2021

Wesley not happy with Chatham hospital boards

wallaceburg er hospital - Copy

A long-time hospital advocate and Wallaceburg councillor is not happy with the latest move by the Public General and St. Joseph’s hospital boards to suspend governance activities with the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.

Jeff Wesley also reiterated the fact in an interview with the Sydenham Current that he only accepts a healthcare plan moving forward in Wallaceburg that includes a 24/7 emergency department.

Disappointed with suspension of activities by Public General and St. Joseph’s hospital boards

Wesley said the suspension of governance activities is “an old tactic” that the two Chatham boards of the Health Alliance has used before.

“The Health Alliance is like a partnership and you have three partners in there,” Wesley said.

“You cannot expect that to work by having two partners continually ganging up on the third partner, which is Sydenham District Hospital. Let’s keep in mind that we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship. In a democracy, it is okay to be opposed to something. By being opposed to it, what that means is, let’s discuss it some more, let’s talk about it some more. We’re not in a dictatorship. What the other two boards have done is they’re acting like we’re in a dictatorship and they’re saying if you don’t agree with us, we’re going to take our ball and go home and we just won’t talk to you.”

Jeff Wesley
Jeff Wesley

Wesley added: “That is a terrible response, it is very unprofessional and quite frankly shows a lack of maturity in my mind. Sydenham District Hospital and the board have my full confidence, they’re dealing with this issue in the appropriate way. They’re being professional. They’re saying we disagree with the other two boards but we want to continue to talk and work it out and find a solution for everybody.”

Plan moving forward needs include Wallaceburg input

When referring to a letter sent to the LHIN by the board chairs of the Public General Hospital Society of Chatham, St. Joseph’s Health Services Association of Chatham, Inc., Chatham-Kent Community Health Centre, and the Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent, Wesley said the idea all along was to bring on partners for the final solution.

“There is nothing new there… there is no one opposed to the bringing together of all those services,” Wesley said.

“What everybody is opposed to is when the concept was initially conceived, that final solution had an emergency department included in that proposal. And then at the last minute, as they go forward, they pull that part of it out and that is what we’re opposed to.”

Wesley added: “I would suggest to the Community Health Centre and the Canadian Mental Health Association, the other two organizations other than the two other hospital boards… they need to be cognizant of the fact that Sydenham District Hospital and the board and our community need to be a part of that solution.”

24/7 emergency care is a must

In the wake of a presentation provided by Willi Kirenko, vice president and chief nursing executive for the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Wesley said he is going to stick with the same focus he always has.

“I’ve consistently said for the last 10, 20 years… that I am personally willing to discuss and compromise on how the future of Sydenham District Hospital looks, with one exception and one exception only… and that is any future plans for Sydenham District Hospital going forward has to have 24/7 emergency care, if it doesn’t I will not and I will never support it,” Wesley said.

“Emergency care is a life saving care that we need to have in a community our size. When you look at the Wallaceburg area and Sydenham District Hospital, we have a catchment area of about 21,000 people. Going forward thinking about the future and thinking about future growth how in the world could you attract more industry, more business, more retirees, more single families if you don’t even have an emergency department providing 24/7 care in your community. The answer is, you can’t.”

Staff intimidated by CKHA leadership

Wesley said the leadership at the CKHA are not being receptive and open to dialogue.

“When we get into conversations about the emergency department here in Wallaceburg, there is a lot of factors that have to be looked at,” he said.

“I think the two other boards over in Chatham are taking a very narrow view of the benefits of an emergency department here locally. Number one being, emergency departments save lives. I’ve had a lot of calls and information passed on to me from nurses and staff, doctors and EMS, you name it. It is very unfortunate because all of them feel very intimidated by leadership at the Health Alliance. They are afraid to speak out.”

Wesley added: “I think it’s very telling that the leadership of the Health Alliance, they have employees that feel that way and they shouldn’t be. This should be an issue that should be well discussed, there should be no holds barred and everybody should say what they need to say.”

Increased ambulance costs

Wesley said if the emergency department is closed in Wallaceburg, there will be increased ambulance costs.

“The ambulance costs are not paid for by the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, they’re paid for by the taxes of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent,” Wesley said.

“Even though the Health Alliance says they are going to save money by doing this, when in fact they are really just downloading the cost to another municipal body. There will be additional emergecny department costs related to this.”

Doctor may re-think future in Wallaceburg

Wesley said the amount of doctors practicing in Wallaceburg could be in jeopardy if the ER closes.

“If the ER is closed, we’ll no longer have 24/7 doctor coverage,” he said.

“I have talked to a number of local doctors who have told me that if there is not emergecny services at the Wallaceburg site, then they will re-think about their long-term tenure here. There is a lot of doctors, family doctors and others, who actually like to get some emergency department work in. That was one of the things that attracted them here. By closing the emergency department here in Wallaceburg you’re going to impact on our ability to retain doctors and you’re going to impact on our ability to recruit future doctors.”

Increased harm is ER closes

Wesley said there are so many issues that need to be looked at, but the most important one is increased harm for Wallaceburg residents.

“If you close the emergency department in Wallaceburg… there is going to be increased mortality for our local residents,” he said.

“There are studies that prove that. Time and time again we have to repeat that. The distance via ambulance is a major factor in the survivability of people. There are studies out there, emergency room doctors will tell you that. People on the other side can say whatever they want, the fact is, the sooner you can get to see a doctor, even if that is the stabilize you or make use of the heliport, the better. Make use of that so that you can be transported from our hospital to wherever. Not necessarily Chatham, it could be London, it could be Toronto, it could be the new hospital building in Windsor.”

The SDH board is holding a members meeting on April 19 at the UAW Hall in Wallaceburg.

It is open to the public and begins at 5 p.m.

Here is some more background information:

Kirenko presents about Nova Scotia model: VP presents ‘Collaborative Emergency Centre’ model

Recap of SDH board meeting on April 11: Wallaceburg hospital board ‘disappointed’ with latest developments

LIVE tweets from April 11 SDH meeting: Board meeting at Sydenham Campus in Wallaceburg, LIVE coverage

SDH Chair doesn’t agree with CKHA report: Proposed hospital changes does ‘not meet our expectations’

Health coalition meeting recap, April 7: New health Coalition fighting for Wallaceburg’s hospital

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


  1. Just because Jeff Wesley is a municipal councilor does not make him an expert on health care. Let’s hear from the real experts. It would be great if he could back up his statements with fact instead of rhetoric. Can’t trust the politicians.

  2. still trying to figure out if Chatham has 1 hospital ( thought St Joe’s closed) why do they have 2 boards? why do they feel they need 2 boards? if St Joe’s didn’t close them im sorry for thinking they did! this is just a huge cluster ………

  3. Mr. Wesley is past chair of the SDH board – both pre and post amalgamation; past chair and co-chair of SOS (2009, 2004, etc.); a member of the 1989 fundraising committee that raised over $2-million to refurbish SDH. He has been an SDH advocate for over 25 years during which time he has volunteering thousands of hours. He understands the current issues and expressed them eloquently in this Sydenham Current exclusive.

  4. I agree you can’t trust politicians who rely on truths that suit their cause. We all have heard those stories over and over.
    Jeff Wesley is not one of them. Jeff has always been up front and has been listening to the people who work and live in Wallaceburg and surrounding communities. I believe he is looking at the actual facts and not a budget. It is time both aspects are looked to serve the health and welfare of this community. Jeff is looking at what needed for the people not a bunch of numbers, if anyone at all has been paying attention, they would know that.

  5. How can they say St Joesph’s Hospital is there when it was closed down . I think is BS that they can say the old wing of PGH is St Joseph’s though to be callled a hospital they had to have a EMERGANCY room the EMERG room is in PGH , Wallaceburg needs their hospital and ER. They need to leave our hospital alone, seems Chatham wants everything and Wallaceburg gets nothing

    • I think it’s the other way around – you don’t have to have an EMERGENY room to be called a hospital but I think you do have to be called a HOSPITAL to have an emergency room. Not sure but I also think the new part in Chatham is St Joes and the old part is PGH but this is just my understanding.

  6. A quick Google search shows that CKHA has 3 Boards (PGH, SJH and SDH). PGH and SJH are on one site in Chatham and Sydenham is at the other site in Wallaceburg.

    From the article above “If you close the emergency department in Wallaceburg… there is going to be increased mortality for our local residents,” he said. “There are studies that prove that. Time and time again we have to repeat that. The distance via ambulance is a major factor in the survivability of people. There are studies out there, emergency room doctors will tell you that.”

    Would someone please find and post these studies? They must be ‘out there’ because Jeff says they are – twice. Maybe the media can find them?

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