Hospital CEO seeks to quell rumours about domestic assault unit, ER changes.
Protesters hold placards along Highway 7 voicing their displeasure at cuts at the local hospital.
The head of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital has expressed her frustration over comments made at a recent protest about the future of her facility.
Linda Bisonette, the president and chief executive officer, was surprised at some of what she had heard following the rally – and beforehand. Bisonette charged that the hospital unions had sent around information that “contained a number of erroneous facts.”
Of particular concern to her was the allegation put forward that the domestic violence and sexual assault programs were being cut. A paper circulated at the rally stated that:
“You (Hillier) appear to believe that services cut out of the hospital are transferred somewhere else. Then tell us where, in Perth or Smiths Falls, we can access, at no cost,” before listing a number of programs like physio-therapy, dietician counseling, and then “domestic violence and sexual assault counseling.”
“That is not true,” said Bisonette. “We eliminated a part-time community educator. That (position) has been taken up by the schools” where the worker goes to talk to students about assault and date rape, amongst other related topics.
As for women coming into the hospital who have been raped or sexually assaulted however, “the sex assault program is not diminished.”
She did confirm, however, that one person was laid off in the physio-therapy department, with other staff members being moved out through “voluntary exits,” early retirements or moving staff into vacant positions. Some staff members, particularly nurses, are complaining that they are being paid $5 less per hour, but Bisonette countered that “if they were full time, they were transferred to a vacant full-time position,” as also happened with part-time staff.
In some instances, she said employees “would go into a role with a reduction in salary,” but added that “as soon as a vacant full-time position comes up, they will be able to apply for that.”
Another rumour that has been floating around is that overnight staffing at the Great War Memorial Site in Perth will fall from three nurses to two. While she admitted that overall emergency room nursing hours will drop from 60 to 56, the numbers will “not (be) in the midnight hours. That’s probably the worst thing that has been said so far…We will be available to serve our community.”
She did confirm that the 12 beds, six at each site, will officially go out of service on Friday, March 8. “We always close beds in conjunction with the March Break closure,” she said. As for what future those beds will have, “it depends on what condition they are in.” Some could be used for parts, while others could be used as back-up in case one of the remaining beds breaks.
Bisonette hastened to add that “we have noticed a significant reduction in patient volume,” and that as of the morning of Monday, Feb. 4, 15 beds at the hospitals were empty, and that number stood at 13 as of that afternoon.
While Hillier was invited to the Feb. 4 public meeting on the future of the hospitals, when told of the meeting by this newspaper, Bisonette responded that “This is the first I’ve heard of it so the answer would be no,” as to her, or any of her board members, attending.
“I’m more than happy to answer questions at any time,” she said. “We’re not hiding anything. There’s nothing to hide…Change is tough and it is difficult.”
Bisonette was also taken aback by word of Perth Mayor John Fenik’s notice to council on Friday, Jan. 25 that he would be trying to land a birthing centre at the Great War Memorial site.
“The first I saw of it was in the newspaper, which I consider not to be the best way,” said Bisonette. “I don’t want to get into a fight with the mayor or the paper.”
She also pointed out that the Perth site only has a basic maternity pack on site in the emergency room if a woman presents herself in the late stages of labour and won’t make the 20-minute drive to Smiths Falls.
“There is no birthing equipment,” said Bisonette, and neither is there an incubator on site. “It is purely an emergency response.”
If a baby is born in such a way, once both mother and child are stabilized, they would then be transferred to the Smiths Falls site.