"It will make south Niagara residents second-class citizens' Burch on Niagara Health's plans

welland hospital

Niagara Health wants to reassure residents about their five-year strategic plan, and an immediate plan to cancel surgeries on evenings and weekends in Welland.

Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President Medical at Niagara Health, Dr. Johan Viljoen, joined CKTB's Karl Dockstader saying they are very proud of the plan of the strategic plan, and they are separately working on a plan to deal with a shortage of doctors.

Vilijoen says there is a lot of confusion between the health system's plan and a current shortage of anaesthesiologists.

"It's very important that we not confuse two issues. The current shortage of anaesthesiologists is not part of the strategic plan. These are two different entities. If we look at what we are managing at the moment at the Welland and Niagara Falls sites in respect to surgery, yes we have to look at a redesign and it was precipitated by the shortage of anaesthetists. We are a system that relied on four anaesthesiologists on call in the various hospitals. We arrived at the point where that is not sustainable."

The strategic plan sees Niagara Health fully transition to a regional model with two acute care sites, including the opening of the new South Niagara Site hospital, and one ambulatory care site.

Local politicians, including Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch and Mayor of Welland Frank Campion, voiced their concerns over losing services at the Welland Hospital, and how patients are already being transferred to Niagara Falls and St. Catharines for emergency surgeries.

Niagara Health's current model to deal with the anaesthesiologist shortage includes cancelling surgeries in Welland after 4 p.m. on weekdays and entirely on weekends.

Patients needing emergency surgery will be transferred to the Niagara Falls Site.

The changes take effect Monday, Feb. 27.

"Because after that date, we will no longer have anaesthesiologists on-call at night and on the weekends in Welland."

Niagara Health officials will be appearing before their Board of Directors tonight for approval on that plan. The strategic plan has already been approved by the board.

MPP Burch responded today saying Niagara Health has been conflating a temporary shortage of doctors with the permanent closure and reduction of emergency services at the Welland site.

Burch says he knew the plan was in the works back in April, and it has nothing to do with a shortage of staff members.

"It's a plan that we don't agree with. We feel the price of this plan will make citizens and their families in south Niagara permanent second class citizens when it comes to health care."