(continued)
Taking a stand when it comes to health care
by Sandy Lindsay

April 11, 2017
www.saugeentimes.com

Town Council

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According to Saugeen Shores Town Council, led by its Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau, it's time to make a stand when it comes to health and hospital cuts by the Province's Ministry of Health.

Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) that manages six rural hospitals has been put 'between a rock and a hard place' having to come up with cuts in order to balance hospital budgets which is required by law.

Unfortunately, it is also a requirement that comes at the same time that the Province makes a 'funding formula' change, as it has with Education.

GBHS, in attempt to balance the budget, is considering the consolidation of elective day surgeries from three of its rural hospitals, Markdale, Meaford and Southampton, to the surgical program in Owen Sound's Hospital.

Saugeen Memorial Hospital that serves the community of Saugeen Shores, has been supported in significant dollar amoutns through fundraising efforts for capital equipment expenditures which are not covered by the Province.

Now. it has been proposed that elective surgeries in the rural hospitals be consolidated into Owen Sound Regional hospital.

In Southampton (Saugeen Shores), one of the most prolific elective day surgeries that will be eliminated is 'pediatric dental health care' which will also result in the loss of a physician position and back-up to the newly expanding ER.

In addition, the proposal will eliminate almost 600 annual elective surgeries (4.5% of GBHS elective surgeries and 4% in Meaford.

According to a motion brought forward at Monday night's Saugeen Shores' Council meeting (Apr.10/17), "... reducing the level of service provided (at Southampton) at the very moment at which the facility is undergoing a community supported expansion and renovation is an affront to every community member and organization that contributed financially to that project."

Following a public meeting held in Saugeen Shores on April 5th in Saugeen Shores' Plex by the GBHS Board and staff members, it was determined that one third of the elective day surgeries were local with two thirds coming from other areas.

"I was surprised that the savings of following this (consolidation) was $550,000 in a proposed deficit of $17 million over the next four years.  So, where is the other part of the $17million coming from?" said Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber.  'There were certainly a lot of questions that were left hanging. It was interesting to note that, if the three sites are closed down for elective surgeries, Markdale that is just about to go through a build not unlike ours, it seems odd that something is just started and this comes at it."

Huber also pointed out that it was said Owen Sound hospital has nine operating rooms but only six are in use and that to consolidate day surgeries how would this all fit together.  "I agree with the Deputy Mayor.  We have to stand up to the Province and we should find other ways to do it too.  The $550,000 isn't much of a $17million projection so what's next?  We need to say something.  There are all kinds of ways that this community has contributed to this hospital and the ER expansion. "

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Councilor Neil Menage called it a 'shell game' and said it's not fair.  "We are being sold another bad bill of goods.  If we thought the school system was upsetting, just wait until this one.  This is just the first shot and within four years, we'll be closing hospitals.  The current government and with the urban structures they are building, is all looking after their needs and certainly not rural needs.  This is about one doctor for sure that we will lose in our community and we will have to transport patients to Owen Sound.  So our ER, that isn't even built yet, is already being cut.  This is only the beginning.  Our share is probably only around $160,000 of the $550,000 proposed savings.  We have put a lot of money into our health care in this community and maybe we will have to re-evaluate and see what the game rules are.  If we want our ER functioning properly, we have to know what the game rules are and we did not get that from the public meeting. We all understand there is an Operations budget and a Capital budget but the question is the LHIN needs to be involved.  Our representative has to be brought here to answer questions.  I believe this is just the beginning and there will be a bigger battle coming."

Councilor John Rich also agreed.  "With the loss of day surgeries it also means that the services of an anesthesiologist will be lost that will impact the ER over the long haul. Over nine hours goes toward pediatric dental surgery here in Southampton and four in Owen Sound, so why not have the Owen Sound patients come here and make this a specialized surgery location.  It is the changes in the funding formula that is making smaller rural hospitals less viable (in the government's perception).  We have to let the province know that we need vibrant rural hospitals and, given the proposed growth in our community we need to be a health centre and need more surgeries not less and it's up to us to make this happen.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau said he believes the GBHS is doing what they feel they have to and there is no criticism of them.  "This is squarely a criticism of the Province and the funding formula.  It is imminent that the Province is going to bring something to the Board about changes and this is an attempt to strongly indicate to them in regards to this funding formula that they must look at those changes.  If we react angrily to something as small as this then they can only imagine how angry we'll be when they come back with a $17million cut.  I think we need to react strongly and by doing so encourage the Province to make changes to the formula so we don't ever experience that $17 million cut."

Mayor Mike Smith pointed out that concerns should go to the Minister and the LHINs.  "That's where the responsibility lies.  The Board is simply struggling and at a point where they cannot deal with the funding that is in place."

The motion brought forward to lay out concerns to the Province was carried.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017