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What’s good for our hospital is good for the province

Recently Dave Gray has persuaded a lot of people that we should rally at Queen’s Park and get high-level government attention to plans for our hospital. The rally is to be on Wednesday, April 17th.

Here’s the background: in 1998 a Conservative “Common Sense” government forced Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital to come under administration from Belleville General Hospital. This “satellite” arrangement has not worked as well as was hoped, because it was not “common sense” to put an efficient rural hospital under the authority of an urban hospital 40 kilometers away. As was the case with many other  small-town hospitals, there was little respect for the idea of “different strokes for different folks,” little understanding that life in the country is still different from life in the city. So now there is a strong and general feeling that the time has come for a return to independence.

Let’s ask our government to look at the big picture, to see Memorial Hospital as part of an economic eco-system that profits the whole province, to realize that local control of our hospital will bring better management of tax dollars plus some long-term medical benefits for people all over Ontario.

Prince Edward County has a unique geography, a unique social history and a unique approach to medical care. These facts call for a non-standard approach to our hospital by the Local Health Integration Network and the Ministry of Health.

Our geography is unique. In the whole of Canada, there is no other county that is essentially an island. For over 150 years people got here mainly by boat. We have about 800 kilometers of shoreline, including two of the longest sand beaches in the world, but only two fixed bridges to the mainland and one of those is sometimes blocked. Some people still depend on a ferry.

 The shoreline is attractive, but very irregular, so some residents are living on long peninsulas and have to drive at least half an hour just to reach our local hospital and, even in good weather, it’s another 35-40 minutes to the hospital in Belleville. Those times do not fit provincial guidelines for prompt medical care. The time lag is greater for the poor and the elderly who cannot drive, because we have no public transport system and taxis are expensive.

 In the summer, hundreds of thousands come to our beaches and provincial park campsites. Now more and more summer visitors come from Québec. They spend out-of-province money here and on the way here and that means more sales tax revenue for Ontario. Of course sun-lovers and campers have various kinds of emergencies and our hospital does a good job of caring for them, even when there aren’t enough beds or when there are no ambulances available. We need more beds and more staff.

Geologically, Prince Edward County is an extension of the Niagara Escarpment, and recent investments have changed farmlands into dozens of vineyards that produce high quality wines. The provincial government profits from the taxes on these wines. The people who tour the wineries often stay overnight at local bed-and-breakfast homes and they can sleep peacefully knowing there is a good hospital not far away.

The county’s topography consists mostly of rolling fields and gentle slopes that attract bicyclists and runners. From early spring to late fall we see out-of-town groups of riders on the bicycle paths beside our roads; and once a year we host a marathon for 1200-1500 runners from all over the world who want to qualify for the famous Boston Marathon. These occasional visitors often find something in our county that brings them back. Their happy experiences promote the image of Ontario as a good place, and that publicity is worth millions to our Ministry of Tourism.

Our social history is unique. It includes Champlain and Catholic missionaries, United Empire Loyalists and our first Prime Minister; but isolation from the rest of the country prompted the growth of a people highly reliant on God and each other. In 1919, long before there were bridges to the mainland, the people of Prince Edward County set up their own hospital, equipped it, maintained it and financed it without provincial help or bank debt. We would like to be in charge again, because we can be trusted to do a good job financially and medically. Most staff members live in the county and many know patients as friends or neighbors. Over the years, members of the Hospital Auxiliary, service clubs and individual volunteers together have raised millions of dollars to buy the most modern equipment available.

Our medical situation is unique. Doctors here cooperate with each other to a remarkable degree. Our Family Health Team is said to be a model for others in the province. Doctors have worked out an arrangement for Emergency Room services to provide 24-hour coverage at minimal cost to the Ministry of Health. Local physicians make excellent use of a good electronic medical records system that connects them to each other and to our hospital, so there is little need for handling of printed reports or diagnostic images.

Queen’s University Medical School sends interns here for on-site experience in a small-town hospital. As a result, some decide to go into family practice when they graduate. That means more doctors for small communities in Ontario  – both a practical and valuable financial benefit for the Ministry of Health. Interns in our county also get a good look at geriatric medicine, because our percentage of senior citizens is higher than anywhere else in the province and our hospital is becoming a training ground for doctors who will be serving “Baby Boomers” all over the province. Let the Ministry of Health calculate the value of that benefit.

Summary: Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital is a unique place of healing

in a unique community. It provides loving services for families who have been here for seven generations, for newcomers, and for visitors. To downsize it or remove it would rip a huge hole in our social fabric, plus damage to both the actual and non-monetary profits to this province. We have heard that there is a plan to build a new hospital around 12 years from now. In the meantime, we say to Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Health Debbie Matthews, Minister of Tourism Michael Chan, Minister of Economic Development Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Rural Affairs Jeff Leal, Minister Responsible for Seniors Mario Sergio and every other member of cabinet, “Please consider carefully how important it is to your constituents that this hospital should continue to provide its present level of services and more, especially to our growing number of elderly persons. Better yet, please disengage Prince Edward Memorial from Quinte Health Care Corporation and let us get on with providing great medical care at reasonable cost to the provincial government.

Al Reimers, Wellington

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    Al, thanks for a fine article on local hospital needs and opportunities.

  2. Paul says:

    I agree with Jan especially when we see QHC Belleville growing by leaps and bounds and obsorbing beds and services from other QHC branch’s.Its only a matter of time the old bait and switch has been put in motion and has been well underway for years..

  3. Jan says:

    If you think that there is a plan to build a new hospital 12 years from now, you are dreaming in technicolor!! The government has no intention of ever building a new
    hospital in Prince Edward County. Look at the pattern of the last few years!! The old
    expression–“the writing is on the wall” is what it is all about!! We need to get our heads
    out of the sand!!

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