Mitchell holds health care meeting

Says de-amalgamation off the table, but community concerns can still be addressed

By Kristen Shane


The province has officially closed the door on de-amalgamation of the Kincardine hospital. But Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell says she recognizes this community still has major health care concerns. So she sat down with local health officials earlier this month to start to set a future plan for improvement.


On Oct. 9, Mitchell met with South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) board chair Dan Gieruszak and CEO Paul Davies, South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) CEO Michael Barrett and Kincardine Mayor Larry Kraemer at ground zero – the Kincardine hospital.


During the meeting, Mitchell handed Kraemer a copy of a letter sent from the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to the Friends of the Kincardine Hospital, the group agitating for the hospital to cut ties with its management alliance with Walkerton, Durham and Chesley hospitals through the SBGHC.


In a one-page letter, J. Kenneth Deane, an assistant deputy minister wrote that “the Ministry…does not support the separation of the Kincardine Hospital site from the Corporation.”


He said the SBGHC model is the best way to distribute limited resources at the four sites.


Gregg McClelland, president of the Friends, says he isn’t surprised – Kraemer passed along the same message from the province at the end of the summer – but he’s not satisfied with Ministry’s reasoning.


“Why can’t you do that without an amalgamation? Why don’t you do it with an alliance like the other hospitals do? They work together but they have their own management team,” he said when reached last week at his home.


But Mitchell has said de-amalgamation is not an option. She’s moving on to find other solutions to the area’s health care woes.


She said she called the meeting after hearing about the concerns of local residents who turned up by the hundreds to a LHIN meeting at the Davidson Centre last month.


“I wanted to make sure the lines of communication are open and a communication plan is in the works,” she said in an interview a week after the meeting.


“We have a clinic and a hospital, provincial interests and municipal interests,” said Mitchell. “What I would like to see is what is the overall vision for health care.”


Although the Friends group was not invited, she says its concerns about hospital governance and better communication between health care providers and with the public were part of the discussion.


“We talked about governance and we talked about different types of governance models,” she said.


One of the suggestions Kraemer said he would discuss with council tonight is whether to add municipal representation to the hospital’s board of directors.


“Would it serve the municipality? Would there be more public input?”


These are the questions council would consider, he said.


Gieruszak said the board’s bylaws don’t exclude municipal representation. The board follows Ontario Hospital Association guidelines and is especially concerned with including well-rounded community representatives with health care and business backgrounds, he said.


“If somebody’s got skill sets, background and experience that the board requires I don’t think being a municipal representative should preclude (them from) sitting on the board,” he said.


Gieruszak himself is a councillor with the Municipality of Brockton.


Looking forward, Mitchell says she wants to see the invited groups work together toward better governance and communication. The meeting was a way to spark the conversation, she said. Gieruszak and Kraemer will take the issues discussed back to the elected bodies they represent, the hospital board and Kincardine council.