Ongoing Work at WLMH – Notes from the CAG Co-Chair, Cindy Toth

Ongoing Work at WLMH – Notes from the CAG Co-Chair, Cindy Toth

The Community Action Group formed last fall to face the challenge to WLMH’s bright future. Our hospital continues to face challenges.

To keep up with what’s going on and progress towards the promised rebuild keep checking the media outlets, and our CAG website, FaceBook page and Twitter.

The year ahead for the hospital will again be challenging. There are downsides and upsides to what’s going on. Work on many areas of the hospital has been underway all summer including much-needed elevator improvements, backup generator upgrade and new sterile storage for the one operating room that used space from the other OR. As well the obstetrics wing was renovated in order to move back into full service in September. That, unfortunately, did not happen. As Hamilton Health Sciences explains, due to a situation related to risks for delivery complications with only one OR operating, natural births at WLMH are being redirected to other locations based on obstetrician, doctor and midwife decisions. This location most often will be St. Catharines General – as this hospital is expected to be within a 30-minute range most of the time. Planned C sections and gynecological surgeries will still be carried out at WLMH. These are important facts to get out to the public. 

This situation is very disappointing and we did not expect this to happen after HHS had promised so confidently that obstetrics would be opening in a refreshed state in September. HOWEVER, to get back to 2 operating rooms, bring obstetrics back to full service and get endoscopy back, HHS is working with the Ministry of Health to make necessary renovations by next fall. 

The province expedited funding for this work, recently announcing a $2M allocation matched with $0.5M from HHS. While it seems that this is putting more money than desired into the old hospital – if the hospital does not get up to full service within this 9 months we could expect more serious impacts in the short term, lingering staff morale issues, loss of staff and doctors before we even get to the rebuild. 

What we are pushing for now from HHS is to get this work done sooner – let’s see our hospital services restored through HHS commitment to WLMH by next summer or even earlier. There are ways to get this work done faster. HHS has been fast-tracking capital project planning and the province continues to do what they can to make sure we have the SAVE bridging work done as soon as possible.

As for the rebuild, HHS and the province continue to reaffirm their promises that the WLMH rebuild will happen. Infrastructure Ontario has our hospital rebuild identified for about $200M with timing that puts us at the shovels in the ground by about 2022. This is on one hand very good news but on the other hand that timing is way too late for what we see as the necessary ‘shovel in the ground’ timing – 2021.

Other challenges are also continuing – we need OR nurses – if you know of any, even graduating students, let them know about nursing opportunities at WLMH.

We want you to know that even if we are not holding public meetings, much of our work is behind the scenes, advocating for work needed to both save and rebuild WLMH. And we want to make sure we get a hospital with a Big H – with enough OR’s, obstetrics, endoscopy, CT scan, ER and other needed services to make sure our growing communities have local care.

We want to shift our efforts including our wonderful municipal government support to getting the funds together for the rebuild so the province and HHS can be assured we’ll do our part. The WLMH Foundation continues to hold the funds raised for WLMH and the Auxiliary continues to fundraise for hospital equipment and site improvements. 

We are continuing to ask our community to use our hospital’s services and asking our doctors, nurses and supporting staff to please stay in the face of uncertainty. WLMH has been an exceptional model of care and a great place to work. 

Don’t lose hope – the CAG is prepared for continued determined efforts to make sure we get to the rebuild on time. We need the WLMH staff and community to have confidence in the future of our hospital – use hospital services, stay strong as a community. We do not intend to stand down until there are shovels in the ground and the hospital rebuild is complete!

Cindy Toth, CAG Co-chair