By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
As Durham’s healthcare network begins a planning process to look at trends, changes and potential developments over the next 30 years, Oshawa city council hopes the issue of overcrowded emergency departments is going to be addressed.
During a presentation before Oshawa council on Jan. 29, Tom McHugh, executive vice president of patient services for Lakeridge Health, laid out the master planning process the organization launched earlier this month. A lengthy process, set to wrap-up in 2019, Lakeridge looks to lay out a tentative guideline to lay a foundation for the next 25-plus years.
“There really is not an aspect of our care that would not come under the microscope,” McHugh told council.
However, at the top of mind for many councillors was the overcrowding in regional emergency rooms and what will be done moving forward to open up those halls.
For Councillor Amy McQuaid-England, the concern was that many do not know the scope of the backlog in many emergency rooms.
“What we see on the main floor in the emergency room is not the full picture,” she said.
The issue is particularly timely as Ontario is being hit with a particularly vicious flu season that is sending many to hospital.
Moving forward, McHugh says that as part of the master planning process, making sure that hospitals are sized appropriately to meet demand and the growing population will be part of the review.
“I think that this will help us, for each of the communities that we service in the region, to right size that care for the future,” he said.
Councillor Gail Bates was also concerned as changes and construction to hospitals in the Lakeridge network could push people to other places in the region, putting more pressure on already strapped ERs.
Most recently, a large expansion project was announced by the federal government that will see ongoing redevelopment and expansion of the Bowmanville hospital.
The announcement was made on Jan. 26, and will see the hospital expanded to allow for its capacity to double. With that said, Bates was concerned about the impacts on patient care during the construction.
“I would hate to see that weight going into another hosptial,” she said of the volume of patients currently served in Bowmanville.
However, McHugh reassured council that the Bowmanville hospital will remain fully operational during the construction.
As part of the master planning process, an ongoing public consultation initiative will allow several opportunities for the public to provide feedback, including a survey that will begin on Jan. 30, tele-town halls in early February and March, along with other focus groups, interviews and resident dialogues.