Don’t Let Niagara Health Stystem and Province proceed with plans to close Welland Hospital

(An NAL note – The following commentary was submitted to Niagara At Large in the wake of recent news that the Ontario government’s recent budget may contain funding for moving forward with plans to build a new, so-called ‘South Niagara’ hospital in the  southwest end of Niagara Falls – a location many south Niagara residents say is not accessible as it should be for south end residents, and certainly not as accessible as the existing Welland Hospital which they are determined to see kept open as a full-service hospital.)

A Commentary by Fiona McMurran

Posted May 4th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

How much longer are we going to be played for fools, people?

The Welland Hospital site in Welland, Ontario is the largest remaining hospital facility of its kind still operating in south Niagara. How long will that last? File photo by Doug Draper

The future of hospital services in south and east Niagara was an election issue last time we went to the polls provincially, and it looks like the same scenario for 2018. Why are we no further ahead?

The Niagara Health System’s HIP (Hospital Improvement Plan) was published in 2008. Many of us here in the REAL south Niagara have been fighting to keep hospital services in our municipalities.

Kevin Smith, sent in as NHS Superintendent, far from addressing our concerns, presented a report calling for far more drastic cuts, including the closure of the Welland General. That was in 2012.

We are no further forward.

The NHS is still calling for the closure of the Welland General, to be replaced by two buildings to house outpatient and day services only, as well as long term care. In the meantime, the population of Welland and its surrounding area continues to grow.

The same is true for Niagara Falls. I just had hip replacement surgery at the Welland General, using the minimally invasive technique that means that I am walking around and climbing stairs unaided one month later.

It’s fantastic — and only available in four other hospitals in Ontario.

Is the Welland General a hospital that should be closed? Nonsense! It’s high time we got something out of the Ministry of Health, the LHIN and the NHS Board other than obfuscation.

It’s OUR health system — let’s remember that.

Fiona McMurran lives in the Niagara, Ontario municipality of Welland and is a longtime community activist and member of the Council of Canadians.

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


3 responses to “Don’t Let Niagara Health Stystem and Province proceed with plans to close Welland Hospital

  1. Linda McKellar

    Where is Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health? The only people I’ve ever seen supporting our cause are Wayne Gates, Cindy Forster and Andrea Horwath (and of course Nathalie Mehra from the OHC). That speaks volumes to me.

    Cardiac problems are rampant in my family. By the time I could get to the St Catharines Hilton, I would be dead. My niece’s son had a severe head injury in Crystal Beach. He was taken to Buffalo and would not have survived if he went to a hospital here because time was of the essence due to brain oedema and hemorrhage.

    Obviously, we in Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Wainfleet and environs are expendable. Meanwhile hundreds of people from Toronto and other cities are retiring here for lower cost housing. Won’t they be surprised, particularly being seniors, to find that the nearest hospital is an hour away, and that’s in good weather? We have been protesting and taking buses to Queen’s Park for years and the cowards flee out the back door.


  2. Chris Wojnarowski

    There appear to be numerous conflicting agendas that resulted in this trajectory – that Niagara Region, with a population of some 250,000 will end up with one (1) only fully functioning hospital, while Hamilton with a comparable population will have seven (7), that a hard-done-by good people of Niagara will be once again marginalized.

    We all know Niagara is a Tri-Centric administrative area (1) St Catharines, (2) Niagara Falls & (3) Welland being the focal points.
    The “Tri-Centric” model should consist of 3 fully functioning hospitals
    1. The new St. Catharines Hospital, serving the North QEW corridor with a core population of 150,000.
    2. The Niagara Falls Hospital, serving the East QEW corridor, NOTL thru Fort Erie with a combined core population of approximately 130,000.
    3. The Welland General Hospital, serving the South / South-West geographic area of Niagara, with a combined core population of approximately 110,000, and spread out over half the peninsula..

    The existing GNGH and WCGH hospitals have sufficient grounds and urban access, and should maintain their staff and facilities. They can be upgraded on an ongoing basis as required at a more modest scale and substantially lower cost than a now unlikely crash program to build a new facility somewhere out in the boonies.

    An example of this approach is the Jo Brant Hospital (JBH) redevelopment program. The Jo Brant, a similarly downtown hospital, was opened in 1961 and is very similar in original architecture and technology. Over the last 10 years, approximately $400 M was invested in keeping it up to date. And as a Burlington Post article by Tim Whitnell dated Jan 30, 2017, proudly points out, the redevelopment was conducted “on time and on budget”.

    Coincidentally, Dr Kevin Smith lives in Burlington and drives by Jo Brant twice a day and has done so for years, so he must know this to be the case.

    Yet in Niagara, much has been made of the unsupported alternative view that this cannot be done, despite Welland having a 25 acre fully serviced site, already in operation, fully accessible by all manner of transport, and located WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE.

    So why is Queens’ Park so committed to destroying an existential part of Welland as a community and a crucial element in the sustainability of Niagara you may ask? How different is the Burlington site from the Niagara sites? Are they different politically? Are Welland and now Niagara Falls being punished for refusing to the bidding of Toronto elites and vote for the ruling cabal? Surely that consideration has no business in doing what’s right for the people?

    Every 4 years we task our politicians with the simplest of mandates – do the people’s will. Yet they just don’t listen. Or maybe they just don’t care.
    Perhaps it is time that we the “deplorables” of this community held our political & bureaucratic elites accountable for failing to do this simple task.

    Perhaps it is time we stop being distracted by events South of the border over which we have no control, and focus on doing something useful here in our own backyard.


  3. The Welland hospital is vital to the Region, not just Welland. My family know this all too well. Yet, we are also very much aware of how Port Colborne and Fort Erie, as just two examples, sought the help of all parts of the Region in the effort to save their hospitals. United we could stand; divide we fall: one hospital at a time.
    No wonder other communities are not very supportive of the Welland effort! Seems some thought, apparently incorrectly, that if the other hospitals closed Welland would be the natural one to stay open. Does the Niagara Health System leadership have different plans. Perhaps one plan could be to make better use of Welland, improve even more the emergency department, make more beds available, and cut some fat at the top! Administatively, the system still seems a little top heavy. The real work is done by nurses and support staff, and doctors.


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