I was dismayed and disappointed at the announcement of the new Windsor-Essex hospital. I was sure that by stage two of the process, the overall plan would be brought back on track following best practices as cited in the research, that being a ‘two hospital solution’ rather than the single site hospital proposed.

I am referring primarily to studies that conclude hospitals under 200 beds or over 600 beds become economically inefficient. The hospital as proposed is to open with 500 beds and will be expandable to 700 beds.

The current 500-550 acute beds in Windsor are subject to seasonal overcrowding, and the hospitals are reported to operate on average at 95% capacity rather than the safe level of 85%. We already need at least 600 beds to cover the 52 patients we went over capacity last year. With the grey tsunami expected to hit hardest by 2035, we will need more beds yet.

The site selected for the hospital is located in an agricultural transitional area to be developed only if the population significantly increases.  Expecting the area to be approved for zoning and development implies expectations of a population increase. Such a prediction is likely erroneous, but if true we will need more beds than planned.

Two hospitals, not necessarily of equal size, would help resolve the controversy of accessibility, particularly for those without vehicle access. The experimental use of Windsor-Essex is unacceptable as the first region in Canada to have only one major hospital for a population of 400,000 within approximately 2,000 square km. The World Health Organization cites Canada as having at least one hospital per 100,000 people.

Checking Wikipedia we find almost every Canadian city with a population near or over 200,000 has access to two hospitals either in the city or in an adjacent city not more than about 20-30 minutes away. Even most rural locations in Ontario with a population over 30,000 appear to have access to 24 hour full service Emergency Department, not a limited service ED like the Urgent Care Centre proposed here.

The two hospital solution could also more accurately reflect expansion in the location needed. The proposed location of the single site hospital doesn’t reflect the needs of the current population, let alone predictions of future need.

The two hospital solution would also provide redundancy, a contingency plan in the event of crisis or disaster. In the past year, one of our hospitals flooded and the other one had unidentified problems with equipment sterilization. There are many other routine reasons hospitals closing: viral outbreaks (airborne or contact), fires, chemical spills, threats of violence like hostage taking and bomb threats, etc. There are also natural and human-made disasters that can prevent hospital operations or limit access to the hospital. A second major hospital provides some insurance.

The new hospital as proposed doesn’t clearly address the current problem of overcrowding, leading to increased wait times and hospital acquired infections. The benefits of the new ventilation system and private rooms are offset by placing all patients at risk in the same building.

I realize the political locomotive has left the station a while back, facts may do little to deter the course, but I still believe it would be the right thing to do.     

– Doug Charles

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