The video was ready, and hospital executives stood waiting for residents, but none came.
For two hours Monday, Feb. 11, The Scarborough Hospital - about to divide services between its Birchmount and General campuses and consolidate its two birthing centres into only one of them - was ready to explain itself.
But no one from Scarborough, whose largest single employer booked the room at Scarborough Civic Centre, was there to ask questions.
A few people had turned up for an afternoon session Monday in the same place, reporters and one member of hospital board’s Community Advisory Council.
It was a mysterious kick-off to Phase Two of consultations on the hospital’s future, given a community group and more than 100 physicians at TSH are opposing the current plan, and given the hospital says Phase One was probably the most extensive outreach a Greater Toronto health-care provider has done.
The hospital can hope people show up for a second “information meeting” at the Scarborough Civic Centre next Wednesday (2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.) or that they see TSH displays at the Bridlewood (Feb. 19, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) or Agincourt (Feb. 26, noon to 7 p.m.) malls.
Apart from an online survey (www.tsh.to) and some focus groups, that’s all the consultation planned so far before the hospital board votes on proposals March 5 that would turn the Birchmount (formerly the Grace) site into a centre for cataract removal and other day surgery.
Though hospital administrators pledge emergency rooms at both campuses will still run around the clock: 109 doctors, a dentist and an oral surgeon associated with the hospital signed a letter warning the division of services (complex and longer-stay surgery will go to the General) will cause the smaller Birchmount to deteriorate.
The letter warns Scarborough north of Hwy. 401 eventually “would be left with a glorified walk-in clinic,” because “acute care services could no longer be safely performed there.”
Organizers of the petition noted it was similar to another, signed by many of the same physicians and sent to administrators in 2006, when the hospital proposed moving pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology from the Grace to the General.
“Nothing has changed in terms of our communities’ needs for acute care. Yet we are again staring down the barrel of proposals that are dangerous to the health of our communities,” said the 2013 letter, which argues consolidating maternal and newborn care at either campus will leave it “substandard.”
Tom Chan, TSH chief of staff and an emergency specialist, said hospital executives aren’t taking the concerns lightly.
“We have absolutely no intention to de-vitalize any of our campuses,” he said, adding doctors and other TSH caregivers “will be engaged at the service-delivery level” to ensure access and quality of care is maintained.
Change is being forced upon the hospital, and Chan said he is asking its caregivers to help.
“I need them to be in there. This is the fiscal reality. This is what we can afford.”
TSH doesn’t have an interventional cardiology program, since it relies on Code Stemi at Rouge Valley Health System’s Centenary campus. “They’re on call to us 24/7 and we have immediate acceptance to our patients,” Chan said.
Display boards at Monday’s session explained TSH had already consolidated its palliative care and mental health units into single campuses, suggesting results for patients have, if anything, improved as a result.
Where the consolidated birthing centres, re-branded as a Centre of Excellence for Women and Children’s Health, would go is still undetermined.
A review last year found maternal and newborn services at both campuses were under used, numbers of births at both had declined and combining them at either the Birchmount or General would save $4-5 million a year.
Both the advisory council and the community group Friends of the Scarborough Hospital have said they are against this consolidation, but neither group has made a public statement since the proposals were revealed this month.
The hospital’s video, shot during last Friday’s snowstorm, repeated the theme that changes coming to TSH are an opportunity to improve quality of care.
TSH must cut $17 million by April to balance its budget.
The hospital has said it will do this through “a mix of operational efficiencies and changes to program scope and size,” including changes to where services are available.
Some employees applied by Monday for buyout packages, and the hospital should decide by around March 1 how many employees will be retired this way, said Marla Fryers, executive vice president of clinical operations.