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Hotel Dieu needs to confirm or deny existence of plan to shorten urgent care hours

KINGSTON — Kingston's Hotel Dieu Hospital needs to confirm or deny existence of a plan to reduce hours at its downtown urgent care center says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

The Kingston Health Coalition wrote to CEO Dr. David Pichora March 8 asking him to release a consultant's report that purportedly recommends closing the urgent care centre at 8 pm rather than the current 10 pm. Hospital staff believe the shortened hours could be implemented as early as May.

"If true this represents a significant change in service," says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. "The South East LHIN and the hospital need to open this up to public debate rather than make this decision in secret and behind closed doors. Given how widespread these rumours are, Pichora needs to immediately either confirm or deny the plan to shorten patient access."

Early closure of the urgent care center likely means more activity for Kingston General Hospital's emergency room. The most recent posting for ER wait times (October-December 2013) showed KGH well above the provincial average, especially for high acuity patients. High acuity patients spend an average of 18.1 hours in the KGH ER compared to the provincial average of 10.1 hours. Low acuity patients spend 5.8 hours compared to a provincial average of 4 hours.

By sending patients back to KGH's emergency room, it would reverse the province's strategy to increase "after hours" access to alternate community-based care.

"The Wynne government sold the public on the idea of urgent care centers to relieve pressure on the ERs, now they appear to be flip-flopping in Kingston and sending patients back to an overloaded KGH," says Thomas.

Text of Ontario Health Coalition Letter:

Dr. David Pichora,
CEO, Hotel Dieu Hospital,
166 Brock Street,
Kingston, Ontario,
K7L 5G2

March 8, 2014

Dear Dr. Pichora,

It has come to our attention that the Hotel Dieu Hospital is proposing to close its Urgent Care Center at 8pm.

We have received numerous comments from area residents and organizations that this change will significantly decrease access to health care in Kingston. The overcrowding at Kingston General Hospital emergency and long waits experienced by patients when they have urgent or less urgent health problems are common and the proposed change in hours will only exacerbate these problems. The time slot, 8-10 in the evening, serves many people who are injured during their daily activities with lacerations possibly requiring sutures, fractures requiring casting, eye injuries or other non-life-threatening but serious problems. There are no other options for them in the Kingston area but to go to KGH emergency, yet their problems often need same day assessment and intervention.

Our understanding is that the proposed closure is based on a consultant"s report. Could you provide us and the community a copy of that report and delay making that decision until a more through community consultation has been undertaken. Hotel Dieu is a valuable community hospital which has relied extensively on community support and good will. It would be fitting that this kind of decision that will significantly affect access to care be made only after substantive community scrutiny.

Thank you for your assistance.  Please call so we can arrange to pick up a copy of that report – 613-532-7846.

Ross Sutherland,
Chair, Kingston and Area Health Coalition