The difference in quality of service at the regional hospital is “night and day” compared to the dual system more than 10 years ago.
That's what Dr. Stewart Kennedy, a family doctor who was working as a staff physician at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre at the time of its opening in 2004, said about today's patient care. Simply put, it's more efficient at the one site.
The splitting of resources between the former McKellar and Port Arthur General hospitals pulled staff in two directions.
“(The regional) brought all of the physician and nursing resources into a specific area. No longer did you have to be on call for surgery at Port Arthur General and McKellar, and no longer did you have to be on call for heart attacks at Port Arthur General and McKellar,” Kennedy, now the vice-president of medical and academic affairs, said at the regional’s 10th anniversary celebration on Friday.
“It really intensified the delivery of quality care in one central location … The comparison from 1994 to 2004 is like night and day.”
Since accepting its first patient, the hospital has grown to include angioplasty services, a new neurosurgical unit, a stroke team and an enhanced cancer care unit.
All of those enhancements allow more patients to receive treatment in the city and fewer having to travel for services that are not available.
That means fewer beds are used on patients that are waiting for treatment.
“Before angioplasty surgery a patient would have to wait in hospital here for 10 days before going away to Hamilton,” Kennedy said.
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan) was a member of Thunder Bay city council during the critical stages of getting the green-light on the project.
Despite a plebiscite in favour of construction of a new hospital, the council of the day had to vote to approve contributing $25 million, which Mauro estimates became $37 million after interest.
While the vote did get passed, it was not a certainty. If it hadn’t, the new hospital might have never came into existence.
“It was an 8-5 vote and I remember it very clearly. If two members had voted the other way who knows if we would have gotten here or not,” Mauro said.
“It’s one of those pieces I remember and the very public acknowledgment that we were not getting a new hospital that you were going to have to get a retrofitted Port Arthur General, which to me was just a ridiculous idea.”
Both Mauro and Kennedy believe the construction of the regional played a significant factor in the creation of the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute as well as the local campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
The medical school has given aspiring doctors an opportunity to practice in the region, where some of the early graduates have elected to build their careers.
Kennedy said the medical school has played a pivotal role in alleviating what used to be a
“significant human resources problem” caused by difficulty in attracting professionals to the area.
For the next 10 years, he anticipates the hospital adapting to fit the needs of the community. In particular, the aging population is something that has to be accounted for.
“I think we can be more system partners and do better needs assessments,” he said. “We’re going to have to go long in seniors’ care. Our population is aging so we’re going to have put extra resources there and in mental health care.”
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