Starting in the new year, all scoping procedures in Lambton will be done at Bluewater Health in Sarnia.
Petrolia’s Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital has been providing endoscopic procedures like colonoscopy to check for cancer and polpectomys to remove abnormal growths for some time now but Bluewater Health officials say the number of procedures has dropped over the last two years.
At CEE, hospital officials were expecting to do 1,000 scopes, down from 1,155 in 2012-2013. Petrolia only provides low-risk scopes three days a week and is closed seven to eight weeks a year because of low patient volumes.
And the number of procedures is falling in Sarnia too. Add to that the fact the province will only provide $167 per procedure while in Petrolia it costs $302. In Sarnia, it’s less, $219 – still over the funding cap but more efficient than Sarnia.
By consolidating the services in Sarnia, Bluewater Health officials expect to save $100,000 this year and the province won’t penalize the hospital for inefficient service.
Rosanne Orcutt with Charlotte’s Task Force on Rural Health Care is “disappointed” by the move but “not completely surprised.”
“When they (the province) only pay $167 for each endoscopy, I know that we can’t do that; we can’t meet that cost per procedure,” she says. “How long can you carry that debt…it’s just a matter of time.”
Orcutt is concerned for the people in Petrolia and area who have used the service closer to home. “We’re worried that transportation will be a problem for people; our question is whose responsibility is it then? Is it Bluewater Health’s responsibly? The person who goes for one of these scopes cannot drive,” she says.
Orcutt says while it is never optimal to lose services, there could be an upside to this. The endoscopy department is right beside the emergency department and Bluewater Health plans to ask the Local Health Integration Network for cash to remodel the area, enlarging the emergency department.
“That would make it a better flowing space and give people more privacy,” says Orcutt. “That’s a good thing.”
And she’s not concerned other services may disappear as the province demands hospitals meet certain costs for services. “I don’t think CEE is going anywhere, it may have a bit of different role,” she says.
Orcutt says the administration thought “long and hard” about the change before bringing it to the board. She is frustrated however no one on the board even questioned the move when the decision was made at the board meeting held in Petrolia Nov. 26.
“It disappointed those of us who were there, there were no questions asked, no discussion; it was presented, they moved on to another topic, no one even asked how it might affect the community or what the repercussions might be?”
Despite the decision, Orcutt says the task force has worked hard to develop a relationship with Bluewater Health and she’s confident CEE is an important part of their operation.
“I feel there is a commitment from Bluewater Health to CEE hospital, but I’m not going to take my eye off the ball.”