Transfer of North Bay mental health beds will be costly after experts determine proposed site not suitable

NORTH BAY – The local committee established to investigate the details surrounding a decision to move 31 specialized care patients from North Bay to Sudbury has some very serious concerns following a review of the report prepared by Medical Experts at the North East Mental Health Centre (NEMHC) and new information raised at a meeting held with the CEO of NEMHC/Regional Advisory Panel (RAP) Co-Chair.

In the report the medical staff clearly state that the proposed Sudbury location for the transferred beds — The Kirkwood Site — is not a suitable facility. They indicate that a new facility will need to be built in Sudbury to accommodate the specialized care patients. Additional financial resources will be needed to retain existing medical staff and to attract and train new staff for the facility in Sudbury.

“It seems preposterous that a decision of this magnitude could be made without even considering the costs involved with the decision. From what we can tell, this move is going to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars for absolutely no reason” stated Sean Lawlor, President of the North Bay Chamber of Commerce. “If the RAP would have consulted with the experts prior to making their recommendation, they would have been aware of the significant challenges associated with moving these patients to Sudbury.”

“Our contention is that the best interests of patients would have been better served by looking at the total costs of this decision. If money can be saved by keeping these patients here in North Bay, while maintaining the same levels of high quality service that they have been receiving for years, the savings can be used to provide the specialized care services that these patients need and deserve” says OPSEU Local 636 President, Jackie Smythe.

This concern was further compounded during a meeting between the committee and the Northeast Mental Health Centre CEO and Co-Chair of the Regional Advisory Panel, when it was learned that the RAP’s scope of work was actually quite narrow. Rather than comparing any legitimate options that either community might have had, the RAP only considered the merits of locating these patients in one community over another. This confirmed the belief of the committee that neither the Cassellholme option, nor any real option, was ever presented or considered by the panel.

“How can a decision of this magnitude be made without even knowing what specific options exist in either community? Cassellholme had a local solution that would have addressed many of the issues identified by the Medical Experts at the NEMHC, but our solution was totally ignored by the RAP throughout the process. It appears as though the RAP ignored just about every aspect of what would have been required to make an informed, logical decision. How is that in the best interests of patients?” stated Dave Mendicino, Chair of Cassellholme.

Finally, the committee was equally confused to learn that the directive to move these patients from North Bay to Sudbury actually came about two years ago, when the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) notified the NEMHC that these patients would be moved to Sudbury. This contradicts what the committee had been told all along, that the decision was at the discretion of the North East Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN).

“Clearly, the LHINs are not arm’s length from the Province. Our concerns regarding the MOHLTC making the presentation to the RAP supporting the Sudbury option makes perfect sense now, since this whole process appears to have had a pre-determined outcome from the beginning. Unfortunately, this process has cost taxpayers a lot of money that could have been better spent on providing health care services to the people that need it,” says committee member Derek Shogren.

“The interests of these patients needs to be front and centre, and from the information we have available to us now, it appears as though the best interests of the patients were trumped by some other motivation” says Lawlor. “At this point, we are calling on the MOHLTC to reverse this decision and address the variety of concerns that were identified by the medical staff by keeping these patients here in North Bay.”

Based on the information that has surfaced over the last several weeks, the committee expects that Health Minister Deborah Matthews and local MPP Monique Smith will be supportive of keeping the beds in North Bay.

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