Here’s a Bancroft This week report on the public meeting held Feb. 12 regarding proposed bed cuts at the Bancroft hospital.
QHC brings public sessions to Bancroft
Posted By Dan Schell
Posted 8 hours ago
As a serious car accident sent two drivers to the hospital with severe injuries down the road from the Dungannon Recreation Centre, a group of concerned North Hastings citizens met at the venue with representatives from Quinte Health Care in regards to the future of the Bancroft medical complex.
The meeting was one of multiple public meetings that have been held by QHC after the organization was forced to propose ways to cut the impending $15 million deficit facing their medical operations. In response to the mandate placed upon them by the South East Local Health Integration Network who provides the majority of their annual financing to eliminate the debt, QHC proposed three different options that involved significant cutbacks to hospitals in Trenton, Picton and Bancroft.
The original proposal for the Bancroft Hospital involved the elimination of four of the local, acute-care beds in the facility leaving six beds for local patient care. However, after a number of meetings in Trenton, Belleville and Picton, President and CEO of QHC Bruce Laughton told the crowd that this decision will be conditional based on the successful departure of alternative-level care patients into nursing homes.
“As we speak about the beds in Bancroft, the majority of those beds are held by alternative-level care patients that could be better served in nursing homes,” said Laughton. “We will try to move them and make room for acute-care service, but if we do not succeed, Bancroft will continue to be a ten-bed facility.”
According to Laughton, statistics show that the Bancroft hospital could operate easily with a two-bed facility without the average eight beds being filled by patients waiting for spots in the nearby Centennial Manor or other nursing homes. With the proposed six-bed facility, he feels that medical services will be more accessible to the people of North Hastings if the people that are occupying the rest of the beds are placed into more accommodating facilities while easing some strain on the annual budget.
When looking at where to save money, Laughton suggested that Bancroft was always a place that was to be looked at with caution. Due to the area’s isolation from other medical services located in southern Hastings County, he felt that it was important to assist services at the Bancroft location while dealing with the rising cost of patients awaiting space in nursing homes.
“Bancroft is a significant challenge due to the distance from many nursing homes and other medical services in the area,” he explained to the concerned crowd. “We will look to maintain the services for this area, while seizing every opportunity to place these alternative-level care patients in a better situation.”
Laughton also stressed to the local audience that braved the ice storm to hear the plans for local health care that this is not a unique position for any of the medical service providers in the province of Ontario.
Currently, around 80 per cent of Ontario’s hospitals are facing deficit, something that hasn’t happened for ten years. Now, with increases in staff wages, the rising cost of drugs and medical supplies and the increase number of patients needing care or waiting for nursing home beds; organizations like QHC are now faced with the daunting task of working with the money they are provided with from their Local Health Integration Networks.
“We have been a very efficient organization with the finances that we have been provided over the years,” said Laughton. “With that said, there is not a lot of fat to trim when it comes to finding the money to save.”
With the recommendations from the Murphy Walsh report on enhancing patient care and improving the work environment for staff saving $3.5 million per year, and $900,000 being saved in removal of administrative and support expenses, Laughton said that other saving options needed to be looked at without changing access to services.
“Over ten years I have been the CEO of this organization and I stress that we have never and will never remove services we offer at any cost,” said Laughton.
Currently, after public discussion, Laughton said that the original options for the health-care facilities throughout QHC have shifted including the maintenance of all 24-hour emergency rooms, monitored beds in Picton and Trenton, maternity beds remaining in Picton depending on staff recruitment and four-bed clinical decision unit to be formed at the Trenton facility.
But, with six beds still being debated for the North Hastings complex, questions were still raised surrounding the impact of losing capacity in the local area. Much of the concern surrounded the maintenance of all services at the local hospital.
Laughton stressed that the removal of the six beds would not be a negative move for the services at the North Hastings facilty, instead there would be more space if nursing home patients can find space in nursing homes.
“I assure you that Bancroft services will not be impacted,” he said. “By working with Community Care Access Centre and other nursing homes, we are hoping to find space so the six beds are always open for acute-care, but ten beds will remain if they are absolutely needed.”
Town of Bancroft councillor Bernice Jenkins raised the question of how the loss of beds would potentially impact the current staff that work in the North Hastings facility.
“My worry is that if we lose these professionals that would look after these beds, what will happen when we need them if the need for the facility rises,” asked Jenkins.
Vice President of Human Resources, Medical Affairs and Support Services for QHC Jan Richardson responded to this question that was raised by many who were waiting to hear what would happen to local jobs at the facility. She said that though there are plans to keep the people within the organization, full job security was not a sure thing.
“I wish I could say that all people will keep their jobs, but to stand up here and guarantee that, I just can’t,” said Richardson.
She suggested that QHC has been looking at the potential of working with Hastings County to do a part-time split between Centennial Manor and the North Hastings hospital to create dual, full-time positions. As well, Richardson suggested a number of nurses throughout the organization are of retirement age where packages could be offered for better wage efficiency.
Members of QHC were not the only ones under question from the public. MPP for the riding of Prince Edward-Hastings Leona Dombrowsky was in the audience for the meeting and faced a number of questions surrounding appropriate funding for health care in rural Ontario.
When faced with a question surrounding the influx of nursing home patients taking up space in local hospitals, Dombrowsky said that sufficient funding will be continued through the provincial government with 50 cents of every tax dollar going to health care. But, recognizing the need for more nursing home space in the area she found a new inititative.
“It is clear that there is a significant need for more nursing home space in this area, and I will make it a goal of mine to fight for that space as your representative,” said Dombrowsky.
Lou Freymond approached the microphone concerned about the community losing the quality hospital they embraced financially through a number of fundraising initiatives. By losing six beds, Freymond heard that many in the community were feeling that they were losing what they gave millions of dollars to QHC to provide and that this would be an outrage to many who provided those funds.
“This is not a prosperous area and many sacrificed a lot of money to get the hospital we have today here,” Freymond said to Laughton and the QHC representatives. “So, if we are not going to have what we payed for, are we at least going to get our money back?”
After a roar of applause, Laughton stated that the option of losing four beds will not effect what was the original idea for the North Hastings centre.
“You are getting, and will be getting, exactly what was always planned for the Bancroft hospital,” said Laughton. “But, it will serve the community better if it is not a nursing home and treated like a hospital.”
After all public meetings are done with the communities involved with deficit-trimming plans, information will be compiled and edited based on feedback for QHC Board approval on February 25. The plan will then be submitted to the South East Local Health Integration Network on March 9 for approval that will lead to implementation and strategic planning to occur after.