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Minister of Health gets first-hand look at health care in the County

PEC Fire Chief Scott Manlow explains the County's geography to Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health, on a visit to the new fire hall's dispatch centre. Mayor Robert Quaiff and MPP Todd Smith also answered Hoskins' questions.

PEC Fire Chief Scott Manlow explains the County’s geography to Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health, on a visit to the new fire hall’s dispatch centre. Mayor Robert Quaiff and MPP Todd Smith also answered Hoskins’ questions.

While he had no money in hand for Quinte Health Care today, a long-awaited visit from Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, moved forward a better understanding of the County’s health care needs.

Hoskins was in Kingston Tuesday morning announcing $13 million (average of almost three per cent) in funding increases the city’s general hospital, Hotel Dieu and Providence Care. The money was part of the Ontario government’s 2016 budget funds of $51.8 million.

He arrived in the County in the afternoon to meet with Mayor Robert Quaiff, tour the hospital and see the new integrated fire department and paramedic facility on MacDonald Drive.

Standing in the dispatch room at the new fire hall, Fire Chief Scott Manlow stressed the importance of a quality health care system for the County showing Hoskins a map and answering that it takes at least an hour to get from the southern end of the County to the Belleville bridge.

Manlow noted that the helipad behind the County’s hospital, and landings in a few other areas, have proved beneficial in several medical emergencies.

Quaiff, answering Hoskins’ question about the County’s population, noted its 25,000 residents (13,000 taxpayers) swells at this time of year as about 500,000 more flock to resorts, cottages and the provincial parks. He pointed out the route to take critical patients to Kingston General Hospital must travel along Highway 49 to the bridge (now under review for replacement).

Mayor Robert Quaiff with Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health, MPP Todd Smith and Doug Socha, Hastings Quinte Paramedic Chief, in the new two-bay facility.

Mayor Robert Quaiff with Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health, MPP Todd Smith and Doug Socha, Hastings Quinte Paramedic Chief, in the new two-bay facility.

The quick firehall tour also included a look at the adjoining paramedic facility, to be open August 12. Doug Socha, Hastings Quinte Paramedic Chief, showed him the two double bays for the paramedic services and 911 dispatch and noted the benefits of the shared building.

“This was an important visit for me,” said Hoskins explaining the ministry’s pilot “Community Paramedicine” program where paramedics move beyond emergency response to apply their training and skills to seniors, or others with chronic illnesses, in their own homes, thus reducing emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

“So, I’m fascinated to see how paramedics with fire come together to co-locate here because they work so closely together in the field on the job, so this level of co-ordination is really important in terms of providing that highest quality of service and care.”

Noting he grew up in a small town, he said he understands the importance of community hospitals.

“They aren’t just a place to get healthcare. They also are important employers, and an important attractant to bring new residents into the community, particularly seniors, but to all of us who want to have the confidence that the health services
that we might have to rely on are there in the community where we choose to live. And there’s an emotional attachment. The relationship you have with your hospital is different than in Toronto where it’s not nearly as personal.”

Having toured the County hospital before his visit to the firehall, Hoskins noted there’s no question it’s an aging facility – not the oldest in the province – “but in terms of its state, it’s clear that it’s not sustainable for too much longer. And so with Quinte Health looking at different options for the future of hospital services in Prince Edward County, I think it’s particularly important.

“For me it was really valuable to hear from QHC, also the two family doctors who joined us on the tour to gain a better understanding of the importance of 24/7 emerg, and to hear about some of the ideas and possibilities of a health hub,” of which he admits he’s a big fan. “I think there’s a lot of potential.”

Of the visit, which following the fire/paramedic building included a drive-by of the Wellings retirement site and McFarland Nursing Home, he said there’s no better way to gain an understanding of the needs, the possibilities, challenges and opportunities.

He noted he’s “been sensitized” of the County’s commitment demonstrated by the community, including financial support, and the state of the facility, “so I’m very keen, when I get back to Toronto, to get a sense from the ministry where they are at. I want to make sure that the proposal that
comes forward doesn’t have to fit neatly into some kind of box, or pre-conceived idea and that it is a proposal that truly reflects the needs of the community.”

He praised the Prince Edward County Family Health Team’s tremendous commitment to the community.

“It’s pretty remarkable. There aren’t a lot of community hospitals where the ER is fully staffed just by local community docs, as exists here. The dialysis taking place in the hospital needs to migrate with this, the laboratory, pharmacy and a lot of elements that can and should be looked at in redevelopment… It makes sense to have everything health-related in the same place. It’s more convenient and makes for a better patient experience and better quality of care.”

Any movement toward gaining 78 nursing home beds lost with the closure a few years ago of Picton Manor

“We’re focused on redevelopment of 30,000 beds across the province, but there is this unique situation here and the southeast LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) where the beds were put into hiatus. The LHIN has submitted a case to bring those beds back into play,” he said noting any paperwork hasn’t yet reached his desk. He said the decision is ultimately his, but he wasn’t fully aware of the discussions as they are still at the ministry-LHIN level. “I know the LHIN made their proposal based on a number of factors, including wait-lists and percentages of population that are seniors, so they are making their recommendations on where the greatest need is in the LHIN.”

Mayor Quaiff said he was pleased with his afternoon spent with Hoskins.

“I understand his portfolio with the ministry is top heavy, so it did take some time getting here but we’re glad he’s here and we’re glad to showcase the progress we’ve got, the progress that we’ve made and the progress that we can make going forward into the future.”

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