STEGH lacks ‘basic medical technology’ – CEO Robert Biron

city_scope_logo-cmykThe space is available and waiting, staff are trained and ready to go and the service could be up and running six months after approval.
The choke point in this essential service for St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is provincial Ministry of Health approval.
At Monday’s (Feb. 8) meeting, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron made a compelling presentation to council on the need to equip the facility with an MRI scanner.
Biron referred to it as “A basic medical technology for any community hospital.”
He added, “We are one of the few medium-sized hospitals in the province that does not provide the service.”
Biron continued, “We are one of the few counties in the province that does not have access to the service.”
Very curious indeed in that STEGH has been a designated stroke centre since 2016 but does not have a scanner that is required for treating stroke and is integral in the management of many colorectal and breast cancer cases.
Biron went on to note, “an MRI scanner is essential in the diagnosis and management of orthopedic conditions.”

As a result, patients have to get scans done elsewhere, including London Health Sciences Centre, which delays treatment.
Biron pointed out his hospital’s emergency department is often the second busiest in the southwest region and access to an MRI scanner for emergency and urgent patients will improve timely medical diagnosis and reduce the current reliance on CT scans.
On average, Elgin residents receive about 5,000 scans a year, all of them obtained elsewhere.
MRI scanner STEGHThe hospital has space and plans in place to have MRI service up and running in about six months following approval. That includes radiologists trained and ready to go.
Shockingly, some people waiting up to 169 days for a scan when the provincial target time is 28 days for Priority 4 (lowest priority) patients.
Most frustrating is the fact back in February of 2019, the Southwest Local Health Integration Network approved the hospital’s application and sent it off to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care for approval.
Biron was told at this time, the ministry does not have a budget allocation for increased MRI capacity.
How much money are we talking about here?
The scanner itself would cost about $2.5 million, which would be raised through fundraising efforts by the STEGH Foundation.
Renovation to the hospital for the MRI suite would come to about $5 million, 90 per cent of that funded by the ministry.
The annual operating cost would be $900,000 for 2,000 scans to again be funded by the ministry.
Council wasted little time in endorsing a letter of support to the ministry and advocating on the hospital’s behalf.
Granted we are in the middle of a pandemic and funds are being channelled into conquering the coronavirus, however, patient delays in obtaining an MRI scan, along with deaths due to cancelled surgeries, are one more casualty of the pandemic that must be accounted for by the provincial government.
Have you had surgery delayed or cancelled or are you biding time awaiting an MRI scan? We’d love to hear from you.


City staff have reviewed letters submitted by residents concerned about the current practice of oiling Canada Goose eggs at multiple locations in the city – in particular the Lake Margaret area – and determined this remains the best approach.
Adrienne Jefferson, supervisor of parks and forestry, is seeking council’s approval at Tuesday’s meeting (Feb. 16) to continue the oiling program for another two years.
geese on lawnjpgShe concludes, “This method along with continuing to naturalize attractive nesting sites has shown to be successful to strike a balance of the geese and public enjoying the city’s green spaces.
“As stated, a successful goose management program requires more than one method to be put in place.”
About 800 eggs have been oiled over the past three years at Lake Margaret, Pinafore Park and Waterworks Park.
Alternative methods of population control include geese re-location (more costly and labour intensive); chasing geese with dogs and birds of prey (tried in 2016 and not effective); and nest removal (likely costly and some nests not accessible by foot).
Jefferson concludes discontinuing the oiling program “would have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment including increase in droppings, damage to properties, noise, water quality and disturbing other bird species.”
Council already received a letter from Deb and Paul Harris who are opposed to the program and since then Aldona and Mark Fowler from the Lake Margaret area have added their voices to the debate.
They find the oiling procedure “abhorrent in the extreme.” They reference a couple of books by Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal who wrote, “We would much rather blame nature for what we don’t like in ourselves than credit it for what we do like.”
The Fowlers note, “To presume that the geese do not suffer is wrong and an arrogant affront against nature.”
They conclude with this observation, “The egg oiling has a surreptitious quality that is also abhorrent. It proceeds almost unnoticed It is as though one of its attractions is its unobtrusiveness, a feature that makes it unlikely to be noticed and thereby likely to upset as few citizens as possible.
“Other attempts at ‘geese management’ are not likely to be as unobtrusive and citizens will certainly be interested in what is going on, as they should be.”
Between geese population control and what activities should be allowed, this man-made lake has taken on a very changed profile in the last decade.

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The developer behind the three-tower residential project on the former Alma College site got a rough ride at yesterday’s (Feb. 12) meeting of the site plan control committee.
Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, developer of what will become Alma College Square, is seeking approval for revisions to the project.
Alma College Square renderingIn a letter to the city’s planning department, Stephen Cornwell of Sierra Construction – part of Loewith’s team – writes, “We believe that the approved permit drawings for the Phase 1 building are substantially in conformance with the Site Plan Agreement.”
That may be the case but several area residents and some members of council challenged what Cornwell referenced as “the design has evolved within normal parameters.”
Could the answers to some of those pointed questions or further information requested be the reason the report from the site plan control committee has been scrubbed from Tuesday’s council agenda?
We’ll have details from Friday’s committee meeting next week in this corner.

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With the Southwestern Public Health region coming out of the provincial shutdown Tuesday, we head into the COVID-19 Red-Control zone for a minimum two-week period.
It allows small retailers to open back up to the public with restrictions after conceding much of their business to the big box stores as part of the Ford government pandemic strategy – a rationale that has never truly been explained or justified.

“The variants are a concern. They spread more easily so the message from us is go out wisely to a store or other facility when you need to.”

This past Wednesday (Feb. 10) the health unit’s medical officer of health, Dr. Joyce Lock, expressed concerns we may face another spike in case numbers as people deal with the somewhat relaxed restrictions.
“I am concerned,” she admitted. “We’ve all been very much shut-in and that’s had an impact to our mental health.
“I think there will be real excitement about being able to go into a store more readily or other facilities that are open.”
She continued, “We are asking everyone to try and temper that excitement. Our advice is to still try and stay home except for what is really essential.
“We certainly aren’t out of the boat, yet. We still have cases every single day at our health unit so COVID is still out there.
“The variants are a concern. They spread more easily so the message from us is go out wisely to a store or other facility when you need to. But do, do, do stay away six feet and continue with all those interventions that we’ve asked you to do to try and stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s so important because we don’t want to go into lockdown again.”
There is a strong belief by the end of next month, it will be the COVID variants that will dominate new cases.
Reminds you of that ominous tag line from the classic 1978 movie Jaws: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”


Last week’s two items on the health unit’s sharps distribution program generated a variety of responses including a lengthy Facebook comment from Carrie Hedderson Smith, who argues residents of the city’s west end are “invisible also.”

“I for one would like the city to clean up the west end. I have been preaching to deaf ears on this issue for years. When Steve Peters and Jeff Kohler were in office we were not the garbage hole of the city.
“The west end didn’t look like it does now. It was clean, respectable, many, many new businesses opening in our end. I’m not discriminating, I’m just stating the obvious, look around, as soon as you pass the train gateway and Jumbo, what do you see as the image of the city?
“Is that the image you really want? Children live in our area too, we have parks and such here, too. It is not safe.
“You drive to the front door of Jennings or Mugford’s and you don’t walk downtown. For years we fell in love with this city and you could walk from the courthouse area to downtown, go to the bank, liquor store, Zellers, Knechtel’s, Mugford’s and more – it was safe day or night, it was enjoyable and everyone did it.
“It was the pride of the city. Not now, no – the writing is on the wall. “If we mention this or any west-end issues we are called NIMBY’s or worse. We are not. We are good upstanding citizens, we are taxpayers, we are retired public servants, we are volunteers. We are the ones with the vested interest digging deep as we care so much.
“We have spent much money and time on our homes and we care about what happens here. We get slammed or ignored for caring and being responsible and respectable. We are the invisible ones also.”

We spoke at length with Leticia Mizon for last week’s posting and she also responded on Facebook.

“I eagerly await the explanation of 480k outgoing and 100k incoming (sharps)and how this does not offer the entire picture. We are all doing the best we can with the tools that we have, or are allowed to have.
“Hopefully, addressing the multiple crises that exist in the community, the quicker we can return to homeostasis, but right now we can’t because the world is on fire.
“While yes, it is inconvenient and frightening to observe directly the issues that your most vulnerable citizens face. The fact that they could never buy a house, or own property, or haven’t had four walls of their own for many years, and barely survive off of $390 for street allowance, or have to fight for years to be accepted on ODSP, or continually and publicly persecuted for merely existing on taxpayers streets, etc.
“The fact that they have been ignored for years in the city is frightening. The fact that they still are a commodity to complain about and fight about is frightening.
“This is what happens when we try to ignore the problem.
“I am glad the conversation is picking up and I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak about the issues using a lens that is supportive of a teachable moment.
“We can get through this, and we will come out the other side.”

And Dave Mathers wrote in agreement with Coun. Jeff Kohler’s request that the health unit adopts a true sharps exchange program.

“I disagree with Leticia Mizon who says that ‘Not everybody is mobile.’ Well, the ones that ARE mobile are the ones leaving the sharps lying around. An exchange program is the smartest option. They are able to get there to obtain new ones so just bring the old ones with them.”

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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