Port Colborne Mayor Urges Ontario Health Minister To Take A Closer Look At His City’s Bid To Build A Health Care System For Smaller Communities

By Doug Draper

Port Colborne Vance Badawey is inviting Ontario’s health minister to come to his south Niagara city has been doing to rebuild primary health-care services in the wake of service cuts at the city’s hospital.

Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey

“Over the past year, we have worked diligently with the NHS (Niagara Health System), HNHB LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), and the MOHLTC (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care) to enhance Community-Based Primary Health Care, in turn, relieving pressure on emergency services,” said Badawey in an April 9 letter to Health Minister Deb Matthews.

“We believe we’ve developed a blueprint for what a ‘Rural (Small Community) Emergency Centre’ should and can be,” the mayor added in the letter. “Come to Port Colborne. We’re doing some great things. Be my guest, and take the ideas we are implementing to the rest of the province.”

Badawey and his council, in concert with members of the local medical community and others, began working on plans for a new primary health-care system for the community before the Niagara Health System, the body responsible for managing most of the hospitals across the region of Niagara, Ontario, followed through last summer on its controversial plans to convert Port Colborne’s emergency room into an urgent-care centre.

That move, which has drawn widespread anger from the community, means that patients suffering life-threatening injuries, heart attacks, strokes and other maladies now have to be rushed to emergency rooms in Welland or Niagara Falls. Critics of the move call it a recipe for death for patients who need to get to a hospital as soon as possible.

“We want (Matthews) to become part of the process,” said Badawey’s of his community’s efforts to build a system of primary health care for the future. “To be a little bit selfish about it, we also have to have her validate what we are doing … We need to know if she feels we are on the right track, and if we are not, tell us so we don’t waste time going down the wrong path.”

Many residents in the community have written to Matthews and to the province’s premier, Dalton McGuinty, urging them to restore emergency care services in hospitals in Port Colborne and Fort Erie. Some traveled to Toronto earlier this April to rally outside the Royal York Hotel where the minister was delivering a speech to members of the Canadian Club titled; ‘Building the Health Care System Ontarians Deserve.’ So far, these expressions of concern and protest appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Niagara south residents join rally in front of Toronto hotel where Ontario health minister spoke earlier this April. Photo courtesy of Merilyn Athoe.

Badawey has levels his share of criticism, especially at the Niagara Health System for the way it is managing hospital restructuring in the region. But he is also hoping to win the support of the province for developing a new model for health care for smaller communities.

Whether he succeeds remains to be seen. Will the province’s health minister begin by responding positively to his invitation?

Niagara At Large is including below a “Backgrounder” the Port Colborne mayor sent with his letter to the health minister, outlining the steps his city has taken to enhance primary health care services for south Niagara residents.


Over the past year, we have worked diligently with the NHS, HNHB LHIN, and the MOHLTC to address many of the gaps evident in our Community Based Primary Health Care:
South Niagara Health Care Corporation:
·        We have incorporated a new corporation (South Niagara Health Care Corporation) to serve the best interests of our residents. In particular, the corporation is responsive to Physician Recruitment, Retainment and Education, the enhancement of Community Based Primary Health Care and re-establishing Emergency “Acute” Health Care services.
HIP discussions continue with area doctors, the LHIN, NHS and Ministry:
·        Presentation of a “Made in Port Colborne” solution for Rural-Small Hospital/Emergency Rooms to Minister Caplan.
·        Ongoing discussions with LHIN, NHS re: standards in UCC – ie: glidescopes, suture rooms, lighting, input for renovations etc.
Recruited new medical professionals:
·        Dr. Jason King began Family Medicine practice at 97 Charlotte St.
·        Dr. Brenda Rempel, Endocrinologist, started her FULL-TIME practice at 248 Killaly Street – the only endocrinologist in Niagara.
·        Dr. Emilio Raimondo, Cardiologist, began to see patients on a part-time basis at Mapleview Clinic. He now also does Holter Monitor and Echocardiography testing at Port Medical Pharmacy’s suite of clinical office space.
·        Dr. Mario Ventresca, Opthamologist, continues his practice in Port Colborne – located at 248 Killaly Street.
New, enhanced Community Based Primary Health Care:
·        Continuing dialogue with LHIN re: CHC… meetings with new ED of CHC, Board of Directors.
·        Temporary site chosen for CHC, Dr. Jason St. Hilaire begins rostering.
·        Health Promoter hired for Port Colborne, Lori Kleinsmith.
·        Port Medical Pharmacy opens, in collaboration with Dr. Christian Proulx and Dr. Brenda Rempel, providing home care pharmacy needs and diabetic teaching.
Providing Health Education:
·        Rural Medicine Week is a success as University of Ottawa students vote Port Colborne the best Rural Medical Week location in Ontario.
·        We had 17 medical students come through Port Colborne in 2009, 3 times the number of students in the past.
·        Dr. Amanda Bell is accepted to be a preceptor for Degroote School of Medicine Family Medicine Resident. Port Colborne will have residents full-time in Port for 2 years at a time. This follows successful teaching of Medical students (clerks) for academic teaching at City Hall due to a lack of teaching space at Degroote. A collaborative effort between Dr. Bell, Dr. Karl Stobbe and the City of Port Colborne.
·        We had our first Physician Assistant do her clinical rotation in Port Colborne. The first class will graduate from McMaster in April 2010.
Establishing Partnerships:
·        Ongoing discussions with MOH to establish a satellite FHT in Port Colborne. Dr. Haibo Xu is granted permission from MOH to establish FHO at the Port Colborne General Hospital on the first floor. He begins to see patients in renovated suite Dec. 7, 2009. Will grow to an FHT as rostering grows and UCC renovations are completed on the first floor of the Hospital site, in turn, allowing Dr. Xu additional space on site by utilizing the former Emergency Department space.
·        South Niagara Health Care Corporation continues to have educational forums bi-monthly for public, including the differences between the differing types of Primary Health Care that are now offered in Port Colborne, with plans for further forums on ‘The Health Story of Port Colborne’ and ‘The Aging Population of Port Colborne.’

(Click on www.niagaraatlarge.com for Niagara At Large and more news and commentary on matters of interest and concern to residents in our greater binational Niagara region.)

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