Province loosens the purse strings to assist St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital

city_scope_logo-cmykRecognizing the need to fix “long-standing issues with how hospitals are funded,” the province this past week announced an additional $68 million in funding to support small- and medium-sized hospitals in Ontario.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek unveiled the funding boost Thursday (Oct. 17) at the CASO station, indicating St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) will received $1.47 million under the investment geared to ending hallway healthcare.
“Noting that it is a medium-sized hospital, the hospital has faced its fair share of problems throughout the years,” acknowledged Yurek, “in spite of its success in implementing the Lean program throughout the facility.”
The Lean management program – adopted by the hospital several years ago under then CEO Paul Collins – maximizes patient care while minimizing waste at the facility. In other words, creating more value for patients with fewer resources.

STEGH was one of the first hospitals in the province to adopt the Lean philosophy.
Yurek continued, “However, many small- and medium-sized hospitals are facing challenges due to financial and operating pressures that impact existing core services.
“Medium-sized hospitals have less flexibility to achieve efficiencies to deal with service pressures.
“We’ve heard loud and clear across the province that long-standing funding inequities have disadvantaged small- and medium-sized hospitals. And, that needed to be addressed if we’re ever going to be dealing with hallway healthcare.”


STEGH president and CEO Robert Biron, left, board of governors chair Cathy Crane and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek

Describing STEGH as “a jewel in our community,” Yurek stressed the funding boost “will help the hospital deal with the challenges presented by the previous funding model.”
It will also “promote sustainability in our hospitals and protect core services in communities across the province.”
Yurek indicated funding to larger hospitals is not being trimmed back and the money “is coming from a number of efficiencies we have been able to achieve over the last year in our healthcare system. The key is, the funding model is being repaired.”
STEGH president and CEO Robert Biron pointed out the additional dollars correct “an inequity in funding that has been longstanding for our hospitals across the province.”

“We are a leader in efficiencies. But, we’ve exhausted the efficiencies. If we don’t have a lifeline in terms of additional support, it would negatively impact our services.”

He noted this has been an issue that has been raised for many years.
“It will be used for operating the hospital, for our core services. The previous funding formula, which has been around since about 2012, grossly disadvantaged medium-sized hospitals.
“So, every year we were finding efficiencies, but we were getting to the point in recent years in order to balance the budget it was negatively impacting services. This will ensure the sustainability of our hospital.”
Under the Lean management program, STEGH is one of the most efficient hospitals in the province, according to Biron.
“We are a leader in efficiencies. But, we’ve exhausted the efficiencies. If we don’t have a lifeline in terms of additional support, it would negatively impact our services.
“This is positive news. It will stabilize our services going forward.”
Asked if the new funding is sufficient, Biron admitted: “Hospital funding is very complex and there are a number of issues we’re addressing, but this was the big one and there are a few others we are currently working with the ministry on.”


Still with Yurek, he is disappointed he has been denied the opportunity to make an appearance Tuesday (Oct. 22) at the regularly scheduled Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) meeting.
That is when the potential fate of two Elgin county schools could be revisited.
New Sarum and Springfield public schools are slated to close next year as the result of an extensive accommodation review in 2017 that recommended closing five area schools.

Also impacted was Sparta Public School which has been repurposed as a French immersion school.
The closures were predicated on the construction of two new schools in St. Thomas and Belmont, however the board has not received funding from the province to proceed.
The school board has indicated the schools will not close until those new facilities are completed.
Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock is to put forth a motion Tuesday that would reverse the closure of the two Elgin schools. Yurek supports the motion and had asked to speak at Tuesday’s meeting.”
In a statement released Oct. 17, Yurek wrote “It is incredibly disappointing that the public and I have been denied to make a delegation for trustee Ruddock’s notice of motion.
“I have been proud to advocate for the families of Springfield and New Sarum in saving their schools while promoting a new school in Belmont. Trustee Ruddock’s motion would accomplish that goal. I will continue to support the Elgin trustees in their efforts.”

“I think it is a missed opportunity and I am hoping the school trustees will listen to Bruce and Meagan and support that change and we can keep some rural schools open.”

Speaking with Yurek following the hospital funding announcement, he noted under Ruddock’s motion, school space would be utilized in New Sarum and Springfield and build a smaller school in Belmont.
That is something Ruddock campaigned on during last fall’s municipal election.
Yurek advised the second Elgin school trustee, Bruce Smith, also supports Ruddock’s motion.
“I think both trustees are doing what they were elected to do,” said Yurek.
“Meagan asked me to be part of a delegation to bring my side of the story and what I have heard from constituents to the board.”
Yurek advised he was not given a reason by the board for denying a request to appear Tuesday.
“I think it is very imperative with the new trustees at the table to hear what they didn’t hear previously. I think it is a missed opportunity and I am hoping the school trustees will listen to Bruce and Meagan and support that change and we can keep some rural schools open.”
Yurek continued, “There is also an opportunity for the school board to take a look at all the empty spaces in our schools and do a readjustment on all the boundaries to make sure we are doing what is right for the county.”
With new subdivisions planned in Talbotville and Port Stanley, Yurek stressed it is imperative “the spaces match the need.”
Yurek said he will not attend Tuesday’s meeting, “but I will be giving Meagan my delegation report for her records and maybe she will have the opportunity to share that at the time.”

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At Tuesday’s (Oct. 15) council meeting, members heard a delegation from Dan Leonardes, president and Jessica Patterson, secretary of the St. Thomas Jumbo Jets swim team on the need for a new community centre complete with indoor swimming pool.
In a letter to Mayor Joe Preston and city councillors, Leonardes wrote, “there is a need for new aquatic and community facilities within the city.”
On the agenda for Monday’s reference committee meeting – scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Room 304 at city hall – is a discussion on the community culture and recreation funding stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
At that time, city administration will discuss with council potential projects to be considered for this federal funding.
It would seem the ideal opportunity to move the prospect of a new indoor pool to the front burner.
But you have to wonder whether the city’s 65-acre northside recreation complex – 1Password Park, with an amount of $11,440,000 approved in the 2017 capital budget – may have put the financial squeeze on any new recreation projects in the near future.

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A special meeting of council has been called for 5 p.m. Monday in Room 304 at city hall.
It is open to the public, however the single item on the agenda calls for a resolution to close the meeting to deal with a personal matter about an identifiable individual.
Of note, this is not the in-camera portion of Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting, it is an additional meeting.
Just a wild guess here, but is this in any way related to the signed complaint from a city employee forwarded to the city’s integrity commissioner Mark McDonald alleging an unidentified member of council of the opposite sex “removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable?”
Is that female employee proceeding with further action?

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The annual tree-lighting ceremony at city hall – sponsored by the Downtown Development Board – is scheduled for Friday, November 15. This will require the closing of Mondamin Street between Talbot and Curtis streets between 5 and 8 p.m. that day.

The next day heralds Santa’s official arrival in St. Thomas with the parade held in his honour. To accommodate the lengthy procession, First Avenue will be closed between Talbot and Redan streets from 3 until 9 p.m. The parade route along Talbot Street, from First Avenue to William Street, will be closed to traffic from 6 to 9 p.m.

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