Local hospitals ask County to step up with additional municipal funding

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND — Representatives from both the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital (HWMH) and West Haldimand General Hospital (WHGH) spoke at a recent Council meeting requesting additional funding for both facilities to ensure excellent health care is available locally both now and in the future.

“Both HWMH and WHGH need your support to ensure we can keep care close to home in Haldimand County,” said Penny Banks, Executive Director of Dunnville Hospital and Healthcare Foundation (DHHF). Over 2018-19 Haldimand hospitals fielded 34,775 ER visits, 5,275 day surgery cases, and 4,734 acute in-patient care cases.

“The hospital’s main mission is to ensure access to quality healthcare for everyone who walks through our doors,” said Lisa Hostein, Executive Director of the West Haldimand Hospital and Healthcare Foundation (WHHHF). She added about the two foundations: “Our vision is to constantly invest in our hospitals so that patients and their families in the communities we serve have access to those services now, and for the years to come.”

Four main issues will drive up demand for health services locally over the next 10 years: population growth, population aging, improvements in quality of care, and rising costs for drugs, physician services, hospital maintenance, and other services. 

“Population aging will drive 20% of all health care spending over the next 10 years, according to the Conference Board of Canada,” said Banks. “The proportion of seniors in the Canadian population will rise from 16.9% to 21% over the next seven years. Currently, Haldimand County has 19,000 residents that are 50 or older. We need to make sure we are well-equipped to care for our aging community.”

In terms of population growth, Haldimand County will grow by approximately 21,000 people by 2046, placing the total population at 67,800: “This statistic puts Haldimand County slightly higher than the provincial average in terms of growth rate, sitting at an annual rate of 1.2% compared to 0.9% across the province,” said Hostein. “Our hospitals will see an increased demand…. It’s going to become even more imperative that our equipment remains functional and up to date for our patients and medical staff.”

Banks said that institutions should have a plan for medical equipment replacement, renewal, or upgrades looking forward at least five years in advance. The pair asked the County to commit to $1 million in funding, to be doled out over a five-year period, with each hospital receiving an additional $100,000 annually in municipal funding. 

“At HWMH, the capital equipment list is in excess of $1 million a year,” said Banks, listing ambulatory equipment, laboratory equipment, and the mammography unit as upcoming needs for replacement or upgrades. “Next year, the only CT scanner in Haldimand County will be due for replacement. We are also replacing our bone density scanner, which is also the only one in Haldimand County.”

At WHGH, the list of new equipment needed includes infusion pumps, endoscopes, mammography machines, and blood pressure pumps, said Hostein. Additionally, the hospital is looking at building a spiritual room on-site for patient use, as well as a new health information system that would make a patient’s information more accessible to health care workers, leading to quicker diagnoses. 

“Our community hospitals are a reflection of our county and the community members who live here and support us,” said Banks. “We need leadership to show their commitment to ensuring our hospitals remain open, accredited, and to serve everyone with the best possible care.”

Currently, capital funding for hospitals is shared between the province and municipalities at 90/10% respectively: “Municipal governments often contribute beyond the required 10% to cover additional costs. We know this can be a challenge, especially in smaller rural communities.”

“The Federal government transfer for health care between 2017-2018 was $37 billion. Total health care costs were $167 billion. That’s a huge funding gap,” explained Banks. “What we need to know is how we’re going to continue to cover the costs of our hospitals without the support of the County.”

Councillor and Acting Deputy Mayor Bernie Corbett addressed the requests, saying that Council is already dealing with a large amount of funding requests for the 2022 budget: “The challenges are going to be enormous this year, but I assure you with resolution that it will be considered.” 

“As the leaders of our community, you should be super proud of the community members in Haldimand County,” summed up Banks. “I’ve had the privilege of working at both hospitals. I’ve seen the spirit of giving and philanthropy that encompasses this county. When we have leadership and community leaders showing their support, it solidifies the way the community feels.”

Staff were directed to prepare a brief for consideration during the creation of the 2022 County budget.