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.”
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