RVHS CEO Rik Ganderton with TSH CEO Robert Biron looking on during Wednesday’s Central East LHIN Board meeting.
The two CEOs representing the Scarborough and Rouge Valley hospitals appeared before the Central East LHIN this morning following news last week that their proposed merger was off – at least for now.
Both Rik Ganderton and Robert Biron looked nervous knowing at least in this venue the decision to pull back from the brink would be regarded as a disappointment. Had the two merged, they would have formed the seventh largest hospital corporation in the province.
The outcome of the meeting was predictable – the LHIN would work with the two hospitals to further an integration agenda and develop next steps. Both CEOs agreed to come back in April after meeting with the LHIN senior staff.
LHIN CEO Deborah Hammons tried to put the best face on the situation noting that the $3.8 million already invested in the merger was not entirely lost –getting the public to understand the position of the hospitals was “money well spent.”
In the end the price was too much.
The merger between the Scarborough and Rouge Valley hospitals appears to be sidelined after months of intense activity including unprecedented community consultation.
March 15 The Scarborough Hospital board passed a resolution that abandons the amalgamation “effective immediately,” although provides faint hope that the province will reconsider merger conditions set by the two hospitals, including funding for one-time costs.
Those costs are substantial – the two hospitals would be looking for about $30 million in one-time basic merger costs and an additional $5 million annually for salary adjustments. The province did ante up $3 million.
The two hospitals were also looking for more than $2 billion in new buildings to replace aging infrastructure and to double the size of the Ajax-Pickering hospital.
That’s a steep price when hospitals are likely to enter their fifth year with base funding either frozen or well below real costs. That funding restraint includes two years of zeros and counting.
There were many questions but few detailed answers during the first telephone town hall meeting to discuss the possible merger of The Scarborough Hospital and the Rouge Valley Health System.
The hospitals report that 8,300 people participated, although the one-hour time frame only allowed for 17 callers to pose questions. Two additional callers disappeared while waiting in the queue.
Perhaps the most interesting point the hospitals made was one of omission. Several times during the call the hospital CEOs emphasized that no emergency rooms would close, all four sites would remain open, and that existing patient care services would continue to be delivered at Rouge. No such parallel service commitment was made around The Scarborough Hospital.
The hospital CEOs appear convinced that the merger of the two hospitals will deliver efficiencies of scale and allow them to reduce administrative costs. No examples of other hospital mergers were given as evidence that this can work. One caller specifically asked how this would be different from previous GTA mergers, such as that of North York-Branson? As if to confirm their fears, Rouge CEO Rik Ganderton said that it had taken them some time to “consummate” the original merger between Centenary and Ajax-Pickering hospitals.
This is an issue the community should push on given the track record of Ontario hospital mergers has been spotty. In Niagara, for example, there is discussion that perhaps the merged Niagara Health System is too large to be workable.