A New Hospital For South Niagara? What About The Hospital Services Residents in Niagara’s Southern Tier Need Now!

 By Sue Salzer

 Kevin Smith and the Niagara Health System he was appointed by the provincial government to supervise have polarized residents and politicians in Niagara, Ontario’s southern tier this past week with headlines proclaiming the possibility of a new hospital to serve south Niagara.

Sue Salzer speaking at health care rally last year. File Photo by Doug Draper

 The idea of a new hospital for the southern tier holds some promise. But in reality it is futuristic and will join the lengthy list of requests for new hospital facilities from all across the province, some of which have been gathering dust at the Ministry of Health for years while they await approval and funding.

 What is really needed immediately here in Niagara are common sense adjustments immediately to a system in distress. The Niagara Health System’s so-called “Hospital Improvement Plan” has, for the more than three years it has been the NHS’s roadmap for restructuring our hospital services has created chaos and systemic problems that have yet to be addressed.

Every day in Fort Erie a family encounters a situation where the need for a 911 call for an ambulance is necessary. It could be a life threatening medical emergency or the need for medical intervention requiring Emergency Room intervention or other hospital treatment. Every story is different except for the need for that stretcher and a transporting ambulance.

 The loss of Fort Erie’ Douglas Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room, Operating Rooms and medical beds is a well-publicized story. One of biggest losses to Fort Erie’s 30,000 residents is the ability for ambulances to attend the urgent care centre and other remaining services at the hospital. For the past two-and-a-half years, every 911 call results in transport of the patient to the overcrowded Niagara Falls system.

Last month our family was able to keep my husband in Fort Erie for the last three days of his life by having him transported by private ambulance. Had we called 911 he would have had a Niagara Falls death certificate. Just another unnecessary Fort Erie case to crowd into the Niagara Falls system.

 Most recently we again encountered the need to make a decision to call 911 or look for an alternative stretcher transport. My 93-year-old father, who became partially paralysed from a stroke five years ago, suffered a fall. As a result of severe arm and shoulder pain our kind family doctor made a home visit and advised my parents an x-ray would be necessary. Thus a dilemma. As my father could not be transported by car to our Fort Erie urgent care centre to be x-rayed, a stretcher would be necessary.

 Rather than suffer an ambulance trip to join the ER lines in Niagara Falls, we again chose to pay OPT (Ontario Patient Transfer) Hamilton for the five minute ride to Douglas Memorial. A very quiet scenario greeted us and in less than 15 minutes the x-ray was completed and read. Subsequently, he was admitted and another 15 minutes had him tucked into a bed where he was cared for by three warm and solicitous nurses.

 I am sharing our family’s experiences are shared in an attempt to further encourage the Niagara Health System to approach the simplistic problems that can and must be resolved now and not only for us, but for many other residents in the southern tier who are likely facing similar challenges receiving the health care services they need in their communities and not somewhere at the other end of the region.

There are common sense resolutions that would be cost efficient and offer best case scenarios for patients and families, and above all bring some relief to the over-crowded emergency and other acute-care services at the hospital in Niagara Falls. Allow the under-utilized Douglas Memorial Hospital to once again be able to provide more services to the Fort Erie area and in turn bring relief to other overburdened systems.

 Take care of the small things and the larger picture will improve.

 Sue Salzer is a Fort Ere, Ontario resident, head of the Yellow Shirt Brigade, a citizen’s group fighting for fair access to quality hospital care for all Niagara residents, and a past contributor of posts to Niagara At Large.

(We welcome you to share your views on this post. Please remember that we only post comments by people willing to share their real first and last names. We also invite individuals and groups to contribute for possible posting news and commentary on matters of interest and concern to residents in the greater Niagara area, including Erie and Niagara Counties, New York.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 responses to “A New Hospital For South Niagara? What About The Hospital Services Residents in Niagara’s Southern Tier Need Now!

  1. A new hospital is a pie in sky idea which seems to be to be another tactic to prolong the solutions we need NOW !!! Dr. Kitt’s came & nothing happened except chaos….. now Mr. Smith is the supposed Saviour of our Health System. What happened to the Regions vote to deal with its own problems and make sure that what is needed is realized….. who knows better than the people living the nightmare …. we know the problems & we know what has to be done….. what’s taking sooooo long?? A new hospital is far in the future….. maybe it will end up like the Peace Bridge Saga….. what are the people to do until someone takes the bull by the horns & does something…. DIE!!!!!!!!!! This is as close to being criminal as it gets in my opinion….. what a FARCE!!!!!

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  2. God bless Sue Salzer and all of the Yellow Shirt Brigade, I love them all, they have been the vanguard in this long and arduous struggle for patients rights and a loud voice at every venue, I wish more of our local politicians had as much backbone. I am deeply greatful for the time and money these folks spent on our behalf.

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  3. Kudos to the Yellow shirts !!!!!!!!!
    Don’t expect anything from the politicians – they go to the parliament to represent the people and but when they get there they do exactly what the party brass tell them to do – no backbone – The system needs radical change.

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  4. Well said Sue.

    A new south Niagara hospital sounds like a wonderful idea, but in the meantime we need a system that provides the people with reasonable access to essential services. Both DMH and Port Colborne General Hospital should have 4 to 6 monitored hospital beds designed for patients requiring a 24-48 hour observational length of stay. EMS should adhere to protocol that would allow them to take patients in this category to their respective community hospitals by ambulance.

    Until such time as the new hospital is built for the south, we need to know what hospital or hospitals will serve as an interim full service hospital. Our local physicians and medical people should have input into these decisions.

    If a site is chosen for a new south Niagara hospital, it should be a medical…..and not a political decision. The new hospital in west St. Catharines was strictly a political decision and has badly broken our health care system across Niagara.

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  5. The notion of a bricks and mortar solution to South Niagara’s healthcare woes has on the surface some appeal. What a tempting offer to have the carrot dangled of our own state of the art facility to reconcile the hospital services deficit created by the HIP and new St. Catharines hospital location.
    One could argue that this entire mess was created when Niagara ( 1 of 3) was given funding for a new cancer treatment centre early in the past decade. While Kitchener -Waterloo debated the new hospital solution, they instead chose to renovate the old K-W hospital site. By 2005 their cancer facility was up and running. Meanwhile Niagara, or more succinctly St. Catharines mercilessly highjacked the process to get what they wanted, a new hospital.The rest is indeed an unpleasant history.
    Where would you locate a new facility to service South Niagara.that would meet the needs of the relevant communities? The geographic centre would be the corner of Montrose and Netherby Rd(s); which would be absurd and pointless. We are left with the simplest solution- renovate, re-organize and re-use the existing facilities in Welland, Port Colborne and Fort Erie.
    There is the matter of cost to consider. A new hospital no doubt would be financed using a (third party) P3 model, whereas a renovation would mean the public bears the capital cost.
    Kevin Smith seems to be on the right track with his recognition that our current structure is broken, but there are still more questions than answers.

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  6. Kudos to the Yellow Shirt Brigade.

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  7. Dr. Smith didn’t say that they were building a new hospital, but it was a consideration, the other two options being 1) separating the NHS into two hospital systems, and 2) retaining the current NHS admin structure but giving more decision making power to individual hospital sites.
    Fort Erie and Port Colborne had our community hospitals, and if they could be refurbished and brought up to code with acute beds and the ER it would be more than satisfactory to everyone living in those areas. If, however, those two hospitals are going to be closed and become acute care facilities then great– Build a new hospital equidistant to us along a major highway with straight access to the QEW so that ambulances or air transport can quickly transport patients to the nearest Trauma Centre such as Buffalo Hamilton or Toronto having enough acute beds for admitting and an ER that could handle and stabilize trauma patients before transport.
    The Yellow Shirt Brigade has not and will not give up the fight for equal accessible health care for all in Niagara. Many do not drive and we have no rapid transit system so travelling is a major problem.

    Fort Erie and Port Colborne had our community hospitals, and if they could be refurbished and brought up to code with acute beds and the ER it would be more than satisfactory to everyone living in those areas.
    If, however, those two hospitals are going to be closed and become acute care facilities then great– Build a new hospital equidistant to us along a major highway with straight access to the QEW so that ambulances or air transport can quickly transport patients to the nearest Trauma Centre such as Buffalo Hamilton or Toronto having enough acute beds for admitting and an ER that could handle and stabilize trauma patients before transport.
    I am not too concerned at the moment, as he has just given us a tidbit of what is going on and I am sure is waiting to see what flies because of it, and how the communities will react, and react they did. We will certainly watch and listen to what is going on.
    What we do need, is to petition the EMS and all governing bodies to allow ambulances to transport patients to the Douglas Memorial Hospital SCU for non-life threatening health problems and for admission to the six (6) 48 hour beds that have been made available to them through their family physician. The protocol must be changed.
    The Yellow Shirt Brigade has not and will not give up the fight for equal accessible health care for all in Niagara. Many do not drive and we have no rapid transit system so travelling is a major problem.
    Joy Russell

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  8. Joy, right on. I had to go to a meeting in Port Colborne one time – it cost me over $100 in cab fare. This is waaaaaaaaay more than it costs to drive there. A hospital in the southern tier will be good, but keep those yellow shirts handy because this may well mean closing the other southern hospitals completely.

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