Leamington fires back at CAMPP over suggestions of cuts at Erie Shores Healthcare

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and Erie Shores Healthcare CEO Janice Dawson. (Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Leamington)

While the group fighting the location of the new acute care hospital in Windsor-Essex raises the red flag about the future of services at the hospital in Leamington, municipal officials reassure their residents no cuts are on the radar.

The Municipality of Leamington issued a press release Wednesday morning saying unequivocally hospital services in the town are safe.

“The Municipality of Leamington and Erie Shores Healthcare want to assure Leamington residents that the construction of a new regional hospital is not a determining factor of the sustainability of Erie Shores Healthcare,” it read.

Councillors in Leamington recently voted unanimously to back the construction of the new hospital.

Citing a 10-year-old report to the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network, Citizens for an Accountable Mega-Hospital Planning Process wrote in a newsletter last month Emergency Department services at Erie Shores Healthcare could be cut back.

Citizens for an Accountable Mega-Hospital Planning Process spokesperson Philippa von Ziegenweidt speaks to media at the proposed site for the new hospital at County Rd. 42 and the Ninth Concession. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Citizens for an Accountable Mega-Hospital Planning Process spokesperson Philippa von Ziegenweidt speaks to media at the proposed site for the new hospital at County Rd. 42 and the Ninth Concession. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

CAMPP head Philippa von Ziegenweidt said she started investigating after hearing about a possible closure from concerned residents. Her investigation brought her to the so-called Hays Report of 2009, which examined ED services at smaller hospitals in its area, including the one in Leamington.

Asked why a decade-old report remains relevant, von Ziegenweidt responded, “the city uses 10-year-old reports all the time — in fact, the planning documents for the approval of the zoning of the hospital relied on reports that were older than 10 years.”

Part of CAMPP’s argument before the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal is that the City of Windsor used out-of-date information to approve re-zoning for the hospital site at County Road 42 and the 9th Concession. A date for that appeal has not yet been scheduled.

Erie St. Clair LHIN board members received the consultant’s report in January 2009, and decided to “move on” from the study and focus on primary health care in those smaller communities.

Von Zeigenweidt admitted to BlackburnNews.com no one in the Ford government has told the group cuts to the hospital in Leamington were coming. However, she insisted it was not a far stretch to believe that a cost-cutting government would consider it.

“What I can see the government doing is saying, ‘well people who live in Leamington or are primarily cared for by the hospital in Leamington; they will have the choice of three hospitals. So, they could go to Erie Shores Healthcare. They could go to the hospital in Chatham, or they could go to the hospital in Windsor,” explained von Zeigenweidt. “If the government is okay with replacing two urban hospitals in Windsor’s urban core with an urgent care centre, then why would they not be okay with doing the same thing in Leamington?”

She pointed to the hospital’s $1.3 million deficit.

Von Zeigenweidt said while Kingsville has seen an uptick in population since the report was authored, she did not believe the hospital in Leamington’s catchment area had changed significantly. She pointed to figures suggesting Erie Shores Healthcare served a population of around 70,000 residents.

Last month, during a crunch at the emergency department at the Leamington, CEO Janice Dawson said the hospital served a population of 108,000 people.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” said Dawson. “We’re seeing almost 38,000 patients in our emergency department, our catchment area has grown significantly, and we are really becoming a key player in the healthcare system regionally, especially with some of our new EMS diversion protocols.”

Dawson lauded front-line staff for taking on the increase in workload without compromising the quality of healthcare provided.

“Never has there ever been conversation in the planning, which started in 2012, with regards to the new hospital that Leamington would be impacted at all,” she stressed. “Either from a cut of services or from closing altogether.”

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald said she was disappointed CAMPP decided to use the hospital in Leamington as an argument in its fight against the acute care hospital location.

“To me, this is fear-mongering,” said MacDonald. “It’s using old data. It’s all well and good to have points to make to the public, but when you’re trying to get at people’s most base fears, I think that’s not fair, and it’s underhanded.”