Redefining hospital’s future languishes on wait list


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We’ve badgered the administration at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital for some time now, so it’s interesting to note CEO Paul Collins will make a guest appearance Monday at city council with a presentation on redefining the hospital’s future.

In summary, the vision encompasses new adult mental health programs, a new emergency department that is double the size of the existing area, new surgical suites and centralized ambulatory care housed in Complex Continuing Care.

The redevelopment represents a $106 million investment in St. Thomas and Elgin.

It’s a business case that was presented to the ministry of health in July, 2009, where it has languished ever since. However, it is a project the hospital has advocated for many years and should there be a change in government come October, it could add a whole new dimension to wait times.

Of note, with the imminent closure of Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant, STEGH will become the area’s second largest employer.

Still with the hospital, spokesperson Cathy Fox shed light on possible OR equipment problems, as reported in this corner last week.

The C-arm, a portable imaging device used in the operating room, is fully operable and is far from 12 years old, advised Fox. She added a new C-arm was purchased in 2007, thanks to community donations.

As to the autoclaves employed for sterilizing operating room equipment, Fox noted there are two units centrally located at the hospital.

Both units were down as result of a watermain break in July and the backup plan calls for surgical instruments to be transported to Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital.

As policy, the hospital pre-sterilizes all instruments for next-day use to stay ahead of the game.

However, Fox did confirm one of the two autoclaves was down in July “on and off for approximately three weeks” and the hospital was able to manage on one unit.

And, Fox advised when such is the case, “it does have an impact on staff,” but assured “there is no impact on patient care and no cancelled procedures.”

Have we cleared up all conflicts?

DID YOU KNOW . . .

As explained by a representative of one of the city’s two taxi operators, the reason fares are higher in St. Thomas is because we have more rail crossings than anywhere in southern Ontario.

That results in higher costs for mechanical maintenance.

This insight is contained in a report to council Monday from deputy clerk Rick Beachey after ratepayer Lonnie McIntyre wrote to council about his $27 one-way fare from the city’s north side to Lake Margaret.

Just a thought, maybe the taxi driver was trying to save on maintenance costs on his vehicle by dodging all rail crossings.

In any event, he is calling for a ceiling on taxi fares within the city, as is the case in Stratford, Tillsonburg and Woodstock.

“With no municipal bus service past 6:15 p.m., it’s easy to feel like a hostage,” writes McIntyre.

“People are most definitely attempting to be more responsible when they are consuming alcohol, however at these rates I know some people are still driving due to the exorbitant fees charged by taxi companies,” he concludes.

Is council willing to open the taxi door on this fare face-off?

TRANSIT TALK

Thursday is an important date to keep in mind for St. Thomas Transit users. At an open house at city hall, running from 4 to 9 p.m., potential modifications to the transit system will be identified.

In a nutshell, riders who rely on transit face a pared back service between 9:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on all routes except Number 3.

In addition, both transit and paratransit service will cease 30 minutes earlier at 6:15 p.m.

Its a significant fall back for those who have become accustomed to a 30-minute schedule.

Since it is unlikely any member of council has trudged around St. Thomas on a city bus, let alone rely on public transit for a week to get a feel for how the other half lives, this is your opportunity to enlighten our elected reps and city staff.

And to think it was one year ago this month that St. Thomas accessibility advocate Stan Taylor and other transit users were able to ride a city bus right to the WalMart store, instead of trekking several hundred yards across what, in winter, can be likened to a Siberian landscape.

That, after a seven-year battle and two appeals to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

With the proposed service cutbacks, do you get the feeling Stan is going to be kept busy?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We want to have schools where the focus of education is reading, writing and arithmetic . . . we think we should leave divine revelation to the churches, the synagogues and the mosques.”

Freedom Party leader and Elgin-Middlesex-London candidate Paul McKeever in an interview this week with the T-J to unveil the party’s final plank for the fall provincial vote.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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