Monday, January 30, 2023

Letter: St. Joseph’s and Public General respond to SDH

Stethoscope 2 (1)

* This letter has been submitted by the chairs of the St. Joseph’s and Public General hospital boards, addressed to the citizens of Chatham-Kent

We would like to set the record straight regarding the suspension of governance activities at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.

During much of the Alliance’s existence, its three Boards shared a common vision and had sufficient funds to meet that vision. This meant it was relatively easy for us to agree on things. With more recent changes to Ontario’s healthcare system (such as the growth of primary and community care, reductions of acute care hospital services and a new provincial funding methodology), adjustments to the programs of the Alliance became inevitable. And with that, our ability to make decisions as a Tri-Board deteriorated.

Today, Sydenham represents 5% of hospital-based activities and yet representatives of the Sydenham Board account for 33% of the Alliance Board structure with total veto over any decisions. It’s akin to the two councilors from Wallaceburg holding a veto over the affairs of the entire Municipality. However, the most important issue is that the directors that represent Public General and St. Joseph’s are focused on the delivery of high quality, safe care and services for all citizens of Chatham-Kent; the entire population our hospitals serve. Our colleagues representing Sydenham District Hospital (SDH) consider their sole mandate as serving the needs of a separate, distinct and fictitious district they call the “Sydenham – Walpole – St. Clair Region”.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance can only function if our collective role is to plan for the delivery of hospital services for all of Chatham-Kent; to give equal consideration for those that live in Erieau as we do for those that live in Wallaceburg.

On April 19, the SDH Board introduced a “new vision” at their member’s meeting. Prior to its introduction, media reports that SDH Director George Lung presented a blank slide and said that CKHA has no vision. George was completely and totally wrong. The service model they are calling a “new vision” was approved by the Alliance in 2012 through the !magine project’s ‘Campus of Care’ for Wallaceburg. Their vision is not new; it has been sitting with the Ministry for approval for over 4 years and comes at a cost of over $75 Million. It’s a vision with no support or political will from the government to see through to fruition. Now is not the time to be stuck in the past – it is time to look ahead and establish feasible, viable plans for our community – plans that bestserve the entire community.

The fact of the matter is that in 2015/16 we projected a deficit as a result of revenue shortfalls of $1.8M. The Ministry’s own figures indicate that emergency services for all of Chatham-Kent should be delivered at a cost of $13.2M. We currently spend over $17M annually on the service or 30% more than we are funded, in large part because the funding does not consider multi-site service delivery. We were recently provided a funding letter from the LHIN that indicated a net operating increase for 2016/2017 of $1.5M for all hospital services provided by the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. This will help, but certainly not close the gap on the projected $3.5M deficit we are dealing with. To fulfill our legal responsibility to balance the budget – which gets harder every year, we must re-align services to the funding levels provided. To recover $4M annually for emergency services alone requires a new model. There is no easy or alternate solution, fundamental changes are needed.

Our boards remain well-aware of the fact that we have an organization to support, patient and staff safety to protect, a legal obligation to balance our budget and an ethical requirement to put plans in place to serve all of Chatham-Kent today and in future.

Finally, our boards have publicly been characterized as “taking our ball and going home”. We want to be very clear with our entire community – this is not a joke and it is not a game. This is our collective healthcare system – the one we all rely on for ourselves and our families care.

We plan to stand strong in support of what we know is right for our community and our local health system.

Jane Havens, Acting Board Chair, The Public General Hospital Society of Chatham

Gail Rumble, Board Chair, St. Joseph’s Health Services Association of Chatham, Inc.


  1. What this joint letter does not say is that the SJH and PGH boards have had 66% of the votes for 17 years and used that voting power to systematically reduce almost every service at SDH so that it today only represents 5% of the hospital based activities within the CKHA. The SD Campus has never been a part of the SJH and PGH Boards vision and now that they are within 5% of reaching their goal of no hospital in Wallaceburg they start to blame the other 33% of the voting board for a situation they have seen developing for years. Spin doctor away all you want, your actions over the past 17 years are the truth of what you have done.

  2. Unfortunately George Lung was absolutely correct. The CKHA vision is to remain ineffective with Emergency requirements, inefficient with the delivery of hospital services and unwilling to change their perception that they are a big city hospital serving a vastly rural area providing services that are better provided by larger hospitals like the new WIndsor supper hospital. The future is very clear for health care in Chatham-Kent and it does not include Chatham’s public general providing a whole buffet of services that they currently provide. Their vision is weak and has no future within the plans of the Province as a whole. For a decade the CKHA has had poor financing and instead of correcting the problem they made it worse by cutting services provided by SDH in order to make up their financing shortfall. This action alone is counter productive and resulted in one time short term savings that dissipated in the first year. The future of public health care in Chatham Kent is now being negatively affected by decisions being made by Public General Hospital (Note St Joes no longer exists). The final cut being proposed will once again result in a one time savings that will be consumed immediately with no future for Sydenham and a very bleak future for the Chatham Public General. There will be no cuts left to make in Wallaceburg and make no mistake Public General will run a deficit so long as they do not face the truth and have a real vision for the future.

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