The Scarborough Hospital continued to promote a plan to divide medical services between its two campuses, as some residents prepared to question those plans at an open forum next week.
Recommendations going to the hospital’s board of directors on March 5 will put “the health of our children, seniors and families at risk,” Friends of The Scarborough Hospital said in announcing the forum next Thursday, Feb. 28, at L’Amoreaux Collegiate.
The hospital, which says it must eliminate a $17-million budget shortfall largely caused by a new way of funding health services, is proposing to handle all its complex or longer-stay surgery at its General site and all its day surgery at the Birchmount.
Birthing and pediatrics would be shut down at one campus – the hospital says it hasn’t determined which one – while the other campus would see these services made into a Centre of Excellence for Women and Children’s Health.
Pat Sherman of the Friends group said hospital officials are invited to the “emergency community forum,” from 7 to 9 p.m. at L’Amoreaux Collegiate, located on Bridletowne Circle.
“We’ve asked for a frank, open meeting with the hospital to talk about our concerns. We have been unable to have that meeting,” he said.
At last count, 109 doctors, a dentist and an oral surgeon associated with TSH had signed a letter warning the proposed changes, including a loss of pediatrics and obstetrics to the Birchmount, would in time render the campus “a glorified walk-in clinic.”
Sherman said he’s relied on the opinions of physicians and other professionals at the hospital, but also criticized the TSH administration’s consultation strategy, which he argued involved the public in what are “pretty much one-way communication sessions.”
The Friends group doesn’t want to tell the administration “how to run a hospital” and recognizes some things have to change, the Agincourt resident said, but added turning the Birchmount into a specialized hospital campus “doesn’t make sense to me” while keeping it a full-service campus does.
Administrators at TSH have maintained for months that campuses offering all services will run out of money as the province cuts health costs, and concentrating many services in Scarborough is more efficient and better for patients.
The hospital also insists their current proposals won’t endanger the continued operation of 24-hour emergency deparments at the Birchmount or the General.
“We want to engage people in a meaningful conversation about how they will receive health care. We need them to be involved in the decision-making,” Dr. Sandy Finkelstein, corporate chief of medicine and medical director said Tuesday, Feb. 19, near a TSH display at the Bridlewood Mall.
It appeared difficult, though, to “involve” Scarborough residents who did not have a thorough knowledge of the hospital. A poster at the mall display and on the TSH website (www.tsh.to/pages/Review-the-Options) asks people to “review the options” without listing any options they can choose from.
In fact, the only option residents were asked about at Bridlewood is where to put the new combined birthing centre and “centre of excellence.”
One woman tilted her head back and forth for a while, considering her answer. “Because I’m living nearby, I choose the Grace,” she said, using the Birchmount campus’s former name.
The implications of the proposals aren’t easy for even well-informed people to understand, and it’s clear many decisions have yet to be made.
Fracture clinics exist on both campuses, for example, but when asked Finkelstein said it’s possible they may consolidate on one campus and it’s possible they may stay the same, though he added what’s important is “people will know the care they need in Scarborough is going to be provided in Scarborough.”
Visiting the mall, Rosemarie McDermott said she found the TSH representatives open to people’s questions, and suggested it was important to ask some, but added the issues being talked about are complicated.
“I don’t know how the public can really be helpful,” said McDermott, who took a survey on the hospital’s future and other material with her.
In a letter this week, Jim Karygiannis, Scarborough-Agincourt’s longtime MP, said he was dissatisfied with the care a family member recently received at the General campus and appeared to support the Friends group’s stand.
“We have been fighting for a few years to keep our hospital, the Grace campus on Birchmount Road, open and make it a hospital which would be the envy of Canada,” Karygiannis said, encouraging his constituents to go to next Thursday’s forum, “listen and work to make sure we save our hospital, the ‘Scarborough Grace.’”
Senior TSH officials have been invited to the event and are still considering their response, Toni Adey, a spokesperson said Wednesday.
The hospital held their last community information meetings Wednesday, though work with focus groups continues and staff will be at a display at Agincourt Mall next Tuesday, Feb. 26, from noon to 7 p.m. An online survey on the TSH website closes next Wednesday.