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2nd best city to raise kids in; 3rd best place to live in Canada and a hospital with worst wait time in the province – Burlington

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 27, 2011 Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) was ranked dead last in a listing of wait times at Ontario hospitals.

Ninety percent of the sickest patients spent up to 25.2 hours in the Burlington hospitals emergency room in April of this year before being discharged or admitted. That’s the longest total ER wait time for seriously ill patients at any Ontario hospital measured that month. It is virtually identical to the 26 hour statistic that JBMH reported in 2009.

The problem, according to hospital officials isn’t the ER, it’s the lack of beds. Officials report that JBMH has many acute care beds ‘clogged’ with older patients who no longer need hospital care but must wait for beds to open up in a long term care facility or nursing home.

With the beds in the upper levels of the hospital clogged with patients who don’t have long term care homes to go to – patients get held in emergency leading to JBMH having the longest wait times in the province.

With the beds in the upper levels of the hospital clogged with patients who don’t have long term care homes to go to – patients get held in emergency leading to JBMH having the longest wait times in the province.

One might understand that a problem was identified in 2009 when data was collected – but that was two years ago. It is really unacceptable for the hospital to say that they are still struggling. That’s somebody’ Mother ‘clogging’ up that bed if you don’t mind.

Burlington’s city council has set aside more than $4 million in a reserve fund that will be given to the hospital when it’s development plans get approval – what’s the delay ?

The city that was ranked as the third best in the country to live in and then the second best to raise a family in is now the city with the longest wait times to get a hospital bed in. Patients are left in the ER because there are no beds available for them elsewhere in the hospital.

JBMH has pitched a $300 million redevelopment a pan to the province that would add at least 70 acute care beds. Hospital officials are said to be “hoping” for approval for their plan which calls for the additional beds to be in place by 2013 or 2014 – but added that the beds are needed now.

There is something wrong with a process that allows the province to drag their feet as much as they have when the city had bellied up to the bar and put their money on the table.

There hasn’t been a word from our MPP; Savoline is packing her bags for her trip to the land of happy retirement which she has earned, if not for her work on behalf of the city at Queen’s Park then for her work at the Regional level where she made some very significant and important changes.

The Mayor and a couple of the council members were recently at Queen’s Park sitting in on a presentation to stop any highway across the escarpment. It would have been nice to see them all banging their shoes on the table while they were there and demanding to know what the province was going to do about getting along with the hospital development proposal. But this is Burlington and we are polite. Tell that to the person who waits more than 25 hours for a bed at the hospital.

We are about to get into the serious part of a provincial election – an opportunity for citizens to ask some hard questions of this government and to challenge the Liberal candidate to who happens to have a lot of experience on different JBMH Boards. Press Karmel Sakran, the Liberal candidate hard and ask tough questions. What would he do to bring about a change? What kind of a plan does he have to lobby the health Ministry and how much research has he done.

During the election campaign Burlington needs to hear what each of the political parties has in the way of a plan that is specific to Burlington.

The government is certainly aware of just how unhappy voters are. A recent report produced by an organization known as MASS LBP, an organization that has done some good work in Burlington when they did much of the public survey grunt work for the Shape Burlington people and also did some work with Rick Goldring when he was Council member in Ward 5. MASS LBP (the LBP stands for Led by People) has also done work for the Region and is recognized around the world as a leader in the field of getting the views of a large community thro9ugh what they call their “civic lottery”; an approach that sends letters out to people who were randomly selected and invites them into intensive workshops were a lot of questioning and debating takes place. This intensive, digging deeply into the way people think produces a much finer more detailed response than a simple opinion poll. MASS is particularly strong in the public health field and are known around the world as a significant force in the collecting of data and then analyzing the data for policy makes to use.

We mention this organization and want to pass on to you some of the findings that came out of the recent research work MASS did in the health care field. The full report is available at https://www.waittimealliance.ca/

After three weekends filled with lively and lengthy discussions the panelists reached the following consensus. How do they compare with your thinking ? What would you do with these results ?

1. Step up Prevention and Promotion. Direct a share of alcohol and tobacco taxes towards health promotion. Expand nutrition and phys-ed in schools, more public education on active living, better food labeling.

2. Improve Accountability and Incentives. Link compensation for physicians to measurable patient outcomes and satisfaction, encourage health professionals to form interdisciplinary primary health teams, expand reporting in hospitals that measure quality and patient satisfaction.

3. Strengthen Community Care. Requires strengthening of partnerships, mobilization of volunteers, creation of patient and community support groups, reduce cyclical funding constraints, prepare for an aging population with new resources for community services that keep people at home.

4. Expedite eHealth and improve information-sharing. Communicate the importance of eHealth while addressing access and privacy issues.

5. Improve Access and Timeliness. Expand family health team models. Utilize nurse practitioners more widely in primary care clinics and emergency departments, and develop a centralized specialist referral system.

Do the results of the survey work done by MASS LBP reflect the way people in Burlington feel? If they do – what is being done by people at the hospital to bring about the changes the public wants ? Is the hospital communicating effectively with the community ? Is the community being effectively served by the hospital? These are all questions that can and should be part of the public debate we are about to get into as part of the up coming provincial election.

The JBMH hospital Executive Director, Ed Vandewall does get out to meet with people; just doesn’t seem to be able to get to community meetings.  The above was a SNAP photo of Eric at a fund raising event.

The JBMH hospital Executive Director, Ed Vandewall does get out to meet with people; just doesn’t seem to be able to get to community meetings. The above was a SNAP photo of Eric at a fund raising event.

It is something to watch a city council be very proactive and resolute in setting aside money in a budget surplus and dedicate it to hospital development and at the same time commit a portion of municipal taxes for at least the next ten years to the development of the hospital. In all my time at city committee and council meetings I’ve yet to see anyone from the hospital address Council. I know of at least one council member who had arranged for the Executive Director of the hospital to appear at a Ward meeting but that got cancelled at the last minute because he was summoned to Queen’s Park to meet with the minister. We’ve not seen any public report or news release from the hospital saying what was talked about.

We have some serious health services problems in this province and in Burlington, where the population is already skewed towards an aging population. Burlington is a “move to” destination for many seniors who want a quiet, safe community that they can spend their retiring years in. We are a safe city with plenty of community services for those who can afford the housing. The city is certainly doing its part. The hospital, which has administrative staff that earn much more than many people at city hall and a load more than our Council members.

Some changes needed and a serious reality check as well.

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