In a deputation to city council this past Monday, members were updated on capacity issues at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. President and CEO Karen Davies stressed that ahead of the pandemic, hospital staff and administration were already struggling as they dealt with capacity issues.
She adds it was not abnormal for the hospital to be at 100 per cent occupancy or beyond.
As noted during the presentation, there were close to 7,800 admissions last year. The hospital has 179 beds, with 30 to 40 of those beds occupied by patients who, the belief is, should have outside care.
Davies points out, with the announcement of the EV gigaplant coming to the city – and with it significant population growth – that will only exacerbate matters.
“We’ve got a great story to tell,” reminds Davies. “We were at capacity ahead of the pandemic.
“We did well throughout the pandemic but again, as we talked about the other night (at the council meeting), we’re maximized in our space here and that’s with our current population base.
“And we know it’s growing and we know we’ve got some significant investments coming to Elgin county that are going to put more pressure on that.”
Davies advises they have applied for provincial funding to undertake a capital development plan to address future growth.
During the pandemic, 22 beds were added at the hospital and they remain open and in operation.
Davies notes when needed, up to eight more beds can be added. It illustrates how the hospital continually functions at or over capacity.
She advises they are working with the Ministry of Health to determine a future direction
“We’re trying to get a master planning grant so we can hire consultants to do that exact work for us.
“So, what is the feasibility of building on this site and then what would be the options be for a green field site as well?
“And so that’s work we’re just waiting for ministry approval to engage in.”
The hospital expanded in 2018, however, the lion’s share of the hospital services take place in the original structure which opened more than 70 years ago.
The present site is landlocked, limiting the options available to the administration, points out Davies.
“To redevelop the current site, as you can imagine, has its challenges, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
“And, in fact, the last submission (to the ministry) was to build a new tower on the current property and then once that new tower is occupied, then the old tower would come down.
“You know we’re not a large footprint here and almost half of our footprint is taken up by parking.”
Davies indicates talks with the province are ongoing.
“We are waiting right now and it is a bit of back and forth. We send them some data, some numbers and they use some projections.
“And obviously that’s changed, not just since the pandemic things have changed but with some of the economic announcements coming to Elgin county, that will also have an impact on our future projections for care needs in Elgin county.”
To give some indication of how busy the facility is now, Davies advises the Emergency Department volumes are going to peak at around 57,000 visits this year, compared to about 58,000 visits expected this year at University Hospital in London.
Don’t forget in the euphoria following the VW announcement, upper-tier governments demonstrated there is no shortage of money to ensure this gigafactory is up and running by 2027.
Oodles of infrastructure money for fire and police services, roads, land purchases, tree cutting, consultants and whatever else may be required.
The thousands of people who will be drawn to this area like moths to a flame are going to expect excellent healthcare services when they move in so a decision on the hospital’s future has to come sooner rather than later.
And speaking of infrastructure, what about schools?
The promised new school for the city has disappeared off the radar and most other area schools are chockablock as it is.
It won’t be long before that 2027 deadline looms menacingly large on the horizon.
STEGH is facing capacity challenges and hospitals across the province “are having to adjust their services based on the staff that are not available”
CHANGE OF COMMAND
For the first time in recent memory, the St. Thomas Police Service will hold an official Change of Command ceremony. It will see Chief Marc Roskamp assume command from Chief Chris Herridge and the swearing-in of Deputy Chief Scott Barnes.
We spoke at length with Chief Roskamp this week about what residents can expect with the new leadership. He stressed the approaches and policies of the service will continue to be reflective of the diverse community. In addition, recruitment practices will continue to champion the values of equality, diversity and social inclusion.
Roskamp is a 25-year veteran of the St. Thomas Police Service with 16 years in uniform patrol before moving up to the Criminal Investigation Branch and then being appointed Deputy Chief in 2018.
He credits Herridge and the chiefs immediately prior, advising he will take pages from their playbooks as the new hand on the helm.
“I’ve learned so much from those who have come before me and I will take a page or two from every one of their playbooks.
“It’s quite a lineup.”
He also recognizes the support of the Police Services Board.
A board “that understands public safety modernization. The members of our board have never hesitated to invest in their members, always ensuring community safety and wellness.”
“Our efforts will be laser-focused on a balanced, collaborative undertaking with our partners in the community, encouraging more social connectedness to the available resources that can support those who need and want assistance.”
Roskamp pointed out that in recent years, there has been a shift in the types of crime and disorder issues present in the city.
“Socioeconomic impacts have manifested in many cities . . . and St. Thomas has not been immune to these challenges,” noted Roskamp.
He continued, “Our efforts will be laser-focused on a balanced, collaborative undertaking with our partners in the community, encouraging more social connectedness to the available resources that can support those who need and want assistance.”
He assured, “Our approaches will be rooted in compassion, supporting individuals to become healthier in society.”
Roskamp made it clear that the path forward is not in siloed sectors.
“If we are healthy on the inside, we will be healthy to deliver services on the outside.”
In today’s society, suggested Roskamp, police have been increasingly responsible for much more than the core functions of public safety.
“Officers are increasingly expected to solve a variety of problems that develop in the community. This ever-expanding role of the police has had a negative impact on officers themselves, many of whom have attested to having too much on their plate.”
What is evident is the majority of issues police respond to “have minor criminal elements, if any, and are typically related to quality-of-life issues.”
Roskamp pointed out as police chief, “it will be a primary objective of mine to continue advocating for local supports to ensure that members of the St. Thomas Police Service are not expected to engage in social work and healthcare to the extensive levels we do today.
“The appropriately trained professionals must be activated to address non-public safety matters.”
As was the case under the leadership of Chief Herridge, one of Roskamp’s main priorities will be to build up the resiliency of members of the police service.
“If we are healthy on the inside, we will be healthy to deliver services on the outside.”
“It is my commitment to ensure that we continue to turn every interaction we have with a member of the public into an opportunity to improve trust and confidence in the services we provide.”
For Roskamp, a worrisome – and growing – trend is the aggression playing out against police in recent months.
He noted the murders of nine police officers in Canada over the past eight months.
This conversation with Roskamp was before the shooting death of OPP Sgt. Eric Mueller and the wounding of two other officers on Thursday near Ottawa.
“These unyielding trends have adjusted the collective heart of policing in ways that have affected the wellness of police officers and civilian support personnel. Unlike any other time in the past, there is an evolving need to review, adjust and create systems to ensure a cultural transformation can begin with a strong focus on member wellness.”
The success of the police service comes down to a single question, advised Roskamp.
“Does our community trust us?”
He continued, “It is my commitment to ensure that we continue to turn every interaction we have with a member of the public into an opportunity to improve trust and confidence in the services we provide.
“This has been and will continue to be a foundational mindset for our police service.”
On a personal note, Roskamp left no doubt he is “honoured and humbled to have been appointed to lead the St. Thomas Police Service as the next Chief of Police.”
He expects anywhere from three to four hundred people to attend the Change of Command ceremony.
Proudly watching will be his father.
“My father was a police officer in Chatham and, coincidently, he retired as the chief of police for the Chatham Police Service.
“So this is quite an honour, both personally and professionally, for myself and my family.
“My research tells me it is rare to have a father and then a son reach the office of chief.”
‘If we’re healthy on the inside, we will be healthy on the outside to deliver services to the community’ – incoming St. Thomas Police Chief Marc Roskamp
ADDRESSING CENTRE STREET CONCERNS
With a significant increase in the number of vehicle collisions along Centre Street this spring, changes were quickly implemented to reduce the risk.
Centre Street is the detour route during Talbot Street reconstruction and this has increased traffic volume.
The matter was raised during Monday’s (May 8) council meeting and by midweek, hoped-for corrective measures were in place.
The intersections of Centre and Princess Avenue and Centre and Elgin Street are now four-way stops, at least during this phase of Talbot Street work.
When the next phase begins in July, the detour route will move traffic along Curtis Street to the north and a decision will be made as to whether the two intersections will remain as four-way stops.
FOR THE CALENDAR
On Monday (May 15) a ground-breaking ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on the site of Project Tiny Hope at 21 Kains Street.
The public is invited to join the YWCA St.Thomas-Elgin, Doug Tarry Homes and Sanctuary Homes for the launch of this ambitious undertaking.
YWCA executive director Lindsay Rice advises, “We’re ready to break ground and we want our community to share in this milestone with us.”
She adds it will be “a moment that will mean so much to so many in the near future as there will be no tiny steps for Tiny Hope.”
To learn more about Indwell and its 45-unit supportive housing project on Queen Street now known as The Station, the public is invited to an open house on May 18 from 5 until 7 p.m. at the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre.
It’s an opportunity to hear more about Indwell’s plans in St. Thomas to create more affordable, supportive housing. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and activities, with remarks at 6 p.m.
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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.
Very short sighted of the hospitals administrators not to push for more stories when the 2018 expansion happened. Typical of CEOs not to look at the longer term needs.