Windsor: Cancer Care Ontario finds out the hard way about community engagement

Score one for the Windsor community.

After Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) told the Windsor Regional Hospital that it had to transfer thoracic cancer surgeries to London or else, CCO found out the hard way that engaging the community is really important.

CCO backed down this week – the Windsor Regional Hospital being designated a Level 2 thoracic cancer surgery centre, the threatened withdrawal of $800,000 in cancer funding no longer on the table. “Thoracic,” incidentally, refers to the chest area.

Unclear at this point is whether an additional $633,000 that was clawed back from the Windsor Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital will also be restored. In the great Windsor hospital campus swap, those services have since been inherited by WRH.

Everybody played a role in fighting back – a lesson for hospital CEOs across Ontario who feel they have no alternative but to play along with the Ministry’s “transformation agenda.”

Windsor CEO David Musyj went public in his efforts to save the service. NDP MPP Taras Natyshak put up an on-line petition that thousands had signed on to. Even Liberal Cabinet Minister Teresa Piruzza played her role in presenting the community’s case to Health Minister Deb Matthews. Most of all the media are crediting the community for mobilizing so quickly around this issue. That includes a campaign by the Windsor Health Coalition to distribute 40,000 leaflets door-to-door.

The case made by CCO to move the service to London was always a weak one.  They claimed Windsor just did not have the volumes to do this work safely. They were wrong. WRH by volume does qualify by CCO’s own definition as a level 2 facility, a point Musyj made in his letter to Dr. Michael Sherar, CEO and President of CCO.

Arbitrarily, after having designated hospitals in Thunder Bay and Kingston as level 2 facilities, CCO decided to call it a day, leaving the entire Erie St. Clair LHIN without such a centre.

It rather makes you wonder how many of the other so-called “evidence-based” decisions communities have been forced to endure are as equally weak?

Former Health Minister George Smitherman liked the idea of communities being involved with local health planning. While the Local Health Integration Networks leave a lot to be desired in how they operate, Ontarians appear to have bought into the idea that yes, we really should have a say.

Now that the thoracic cancer surgeries have been saved, the Windsor community may want to give thought to the upcoming review of the legislation that governs the Local Health Integration Networks. Whereas the LHIN has the responsibility for local planning, including access to cancer services, it’s not clear what role they played — if any — in this unfolding drama. If they expect the LHINs to work on their behalf, the freshly mobilized Windsor community should be prepared to stick an oar in.

One response to “Windsor: Cancer Care Ontario finds out the hard way about community engagement

  1. The only reason they backed down was fear of losing an upcoming election. Port Colborne had over 19,000 signatures not to remove their emergency department, shut down their opeating room and close their acute medical beds….Fort Erie had over 5,600 people attend a rally for the same reason in their community. Welland had over 20,000 petitions not to remove more services from their hospital. It made absolutely no difference. They went ahead as though they hadn’t heard anything. It’s all about politics.

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