De-amalgamation is the agenda


One thing is clear from last Tuesday’s Friends of Kincardine Hospital (FOKH) public meeting: the group wants a change at the top.

Embattled South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) CEO Paul Davies took another verbal lashing from hospital supporters calling for his termination as the head of the hospital group’s decision making team.

“It’s not possible for us to have faith in the future without separating from the hospital and its current CEO,” said meeting co-chair Ian Mitchell.

Kincardine’s physician group brought to light the communication problems surrounding Davies and hospital staff at the Oct. 31 stakeholders meeting. Last Tuesday, Dr. Lisa Roth said the morale of staff has steadily decreased since Davies took over control of the hospital. He was also accused of bullying and secrecy by members of the FOHK committee.

Davies, and members of the hospital board were absent from the public meeting. Organizers said SBGHC board chair John Haggerty had been invited, but Davies was not sent an invitation.

“You don’t invite a skunk to a garden party,” said Mitchell.

Approximately 275 (although organizers estimated closer to 400) people jammed Kincardine Hall on a snowy night to be part of the public discussion on the hospital’s future. A team of seven spoke to the crowd and each gave reasons why the Kincardine hospital should de-amalgamate from the SBGHC alliance.

A lack of accountability on the SBGHC board, and a lack of communication from board members were among the most-repeated reasons for getting out. The poor relationship between Kincardine’s physicians and the hospital’s CEO is also considered detrimental to the hospital’s future and the municipality’s hopes of landing new doctors.

“Someone needs to be leading us who has innovation and good leadership skills,” said Roth. “We don’t see that happening the way things are right now.”

Finances are also high on FOHK’s reasons for seeking de-amalgamation. The group claims it cannot get detailed information on Kincardine hospital’s budget. Provincial funding is given to the board and is split amongst the four hospitals by Davies. Centralization of services in Walkerton has worried some hospital supporters as well.

“We tried to do this another way,” said Dr. Gary Gurbin. “But we weren’t dealt with fairly or truthfully.”

The public meeting was set up in response to information gathered at the Oct. 31 stakeholders meeting. Kincardine council and the Tiverton Ratepayers both gave their support to the FOKH and endorsed the meeting.

Mitchell and Gregg McClelland of the Hospital Foundation chaired the meeting. Former mayor Glenn Sutton, Roth, Gurbin, businessman Bryan Walden and Ed Roberts and Bob Wilson of the Tiverton and District Ratepayers association were asked to speak. Councillor Ron Hewitt gave the municipality’s position.

The meeting was held to gauge public support for a serious look at de-amalgamation. Petitions were circulated supporting the move and donation boxes were set up at the door. A larger-than-expected crowd, mostly seniors, gave the group confidence that the public is behind its objectives.

“It’s great to see all of these people here,” said McClelland. “We have the support to go ahead and look at this. All we have to do is gather information.”

The FOKH supporters have formed a committee of 12-15 people to steer the group’s future. Public support is there for a move towards de-amalgamtion, so the group said it will begin to work towards that goal.

There are several options available for the hospital at this point. Kincardine can de-amalgamate and act as a stand-alone hospital. It can also de-amalgamate and form an alliance with other hospitals, including Goderich.

“I don’t pretend to know what the best solution is for our hospital,” said Roth. “That’s why this group has got together to look at what we can do. The doctors are 100 per cent behind them.”

In October, Davies said the hospital would need board approval to seek de-amalgamation. FOKH believes it can take its request directly to the Minister of Health. One resident also suggested Kincardine residents buy memberships to the SBGHC board and strike a motion to approve de-amalgamation.

Members of the FOHK admit to not having a firm grasp on the financial implications of separation. The group will take the support from this meeting to move forward with a business plan. The plan will lay out financial information, as well as future leadership for a new hospital board. McClelland said that will be presented to Kincardine council and the public for approval before a move is made to contact the Minister of Health.

The group will update council on its progress in approximately two months. Once the business plan is complete and has the community’s support, it is estimated it will take nine months to complete de-amalgamation.

The FOHK is looking for volunteers to help draft its plan and drum up grassroots support for the campaign. Petitions will be available in numerous stores and businesses across Tiverton, Kincardine and possibly Ripley. Donations will also continue to be accepted.

FOHK said it is committed to seeing major change and will continue to work in that direction. Public announcements will be made prior to any major actions.

“We can’t do this without your help,” said Sutton.

Organizers said $514 was collected at the meeting. Seventy-six people volunteered to work for the FOHK.