The Minister of Health and Long Term Care says Prince Edward County has a tremendous opportunity for a health hub and the municipality should continue with its request for one in the proposal for a new hospital.
Dr. Eric Hoskins made those sentiments following a tour of the Prince Edward Memorial Hospital and Picton’s new fire hall and paramedics facility Tuesday. The tours, organized by mayor Robert Quaiff and councillor Bill Roberts, were accompanied by CAO James Hepburn, Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation Board Chair Monica Alyea, members of the Prince Edward Family Health Team and POOCH (Patron Of Our County Hospital). Talks primarily focused on the health needs of County residents, particularly plans for a new hospital as part of a broader health hub to align with the municipality’s existing ‘Age-in-Place’ concept.
As it stands now, the Ministry is expecting to have a look at Quinte Healthcare’s corporate master program for a new or redeveloped County hospital by summer’s end.
The program is before the Local Health Integrated Network and includes many phases such as determining what services should be provided in the hospital, the structure required to maintain those services and a preferred site location. The business case proposes a new or renovated hospital with the existing services: inpatient beds, 24-hour emergency care, x-ray and endoscopy services. The County’s preferred location is where the development of the Wellings of Picton project is taking place behind the HJ McFarland Memorial Home that could include the hospital, nursing homes, medical clinic with space for the family health team and many other amenities. QHC is looking at all potential site options.
Hoskins who prides himself in being a ‘big fan’ of health hubs touted his efforts in pushing for one in Trenton and Penetanguishene. He shied away from making any firm announcements but said there is a strong commitment by the province for community health centres.
“It makes sense to have everything health related in the same place, it’s more convenient, it makes for a better patient experience and quality of care,” he said.
Hoskins explained the tours gave him a better understanding of the aging County hospital; the remote area and distance to services in Belleville and Kingston; along with the community and financial support for a new facility, particularly a costly planning grant that was provided 10 years ago and denied.
Hoskins pointed to the ‘strong family health team’ and their close relationship to the community and hospital like the County. He said there aren’t a lot of community hospitals that are fully staffed with local doctors. Hoskins added the County’s dialysis services need to migrate with the redevelopment along with the laboratory and pharmacy.
During the tour of the fire hall, Fire Chief Scott Manlow and Hastings Quinte Paramedic Chief Doug Socha gave Hoskins a rundown on the hall’s dispatch center that features eight bays for fire and four bays for paramedics (to be opened on August 12). Manlow talked about the importance of response times stressing how vital the helipad at the hospital is in time of emergencies. He illustrated on a map of the County how it takes at least an hour to get from the southern portion of the municipality to the Norris Whitney bridge in Belleville.
Hoskins said he was fascinated to see how paramedics and fire have come together to co-locate in Picton because they work so closely in the field. He added this level of co-ordination is really important in terms of providing the highest level of quality of service and care.
Another proposal of interest regarding the LHIN’s plans to redistribute 78 long term care beds within the South East Ontario region hasn’t made its way to Hoskin’s desk yet.
In June, LHIN CEO Paul Huras informed mayor Quaiff that the County wouldn’t be receiving 12-20 beds requested from the 78 that were lost during the closure of Picton Manor in 2012.
At the time, Quaiff called it a disappointing rejection that could have major financial implications on the municipality’s plans to rebuild HJ McFarland Home’s senior residences. The rebuild isn’t planned until 2025. Staff is still working on its application to the Ministry of Health and estimate it will be submitted this month.
When asked if the province plans to create more long term care beds and possibly consider the County for some of them, Hoskins pointed to the province’s commitment to redevelop 30,000 beds across the province.
But at this point, Hoskin said the 78 beds in question have not come to him to sign off on yet.
Overall mayor Quaiff said he is very pleased with Minister Hoskins’ visit to the County.
Quaiff beamed the dialogue was very open and positive adding he felt Hoskins was genuinely receptive to the idea of a health hub.