After much discussion the Toronto East General Hospital board has decided to end merger discussions with The Scarborough Hospital.
The announcement came on the same day a third-party report on the merger was released publicly.
Toronto East General Hospital president and CEO Rob Devitt said the board was first approached by The Scarborough Hospital around May to see if they thought there was an opportunity to strengthen patient care and save money by merging.
He said they took it to the hospital board in June, where they conducted an internal analysis, looking at both hospitals’ strengths and weaknesses.
After discussions with physicians and staff, the board engaged consulting firm Corpus Sanchez International Consultancy in mid-December to prepare a report, at a cost of $90,000 split between the two hospitals.
The report identifies $22–27 million in potential productivity savings, which could be achieved without any changes to services.
The savings largely revolved around administrative changes and moving services and processes to Scarborough, Devitt said.
[local]2[/local]However, a communiqué posted on Toronto East General’s website says a directive from the Central East Local Health Integration Network to The Scarborough Hospital to “fully explore at least four integration opportunities” with other hospitals in the area served by their Local Health Integration Network influenced their decision.
Toronto East General is not a member of The Scarborough Hospital’s network, rather it belongs to the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.
“We looked at those recommendations and said ‘We’re not part of that (Local Health Integration Network)’, but we need to bring closure one way or the other to this … We thought the delay that the work that Scarborough is now going to have to do for their (Local Health Integration Network) was going to be hugely destabilizing,” Devitt said.
“We also had a full presentation from the consultants on the report, we also had a presentation from the medical staff on their views,” Devitt added. “The board weighed all that and said we’re ending discussions.”
A communiqué on the Scarborough Hospital’s website tells a different story.
“While there are definitely benefits to working together, it is the board’s collective opinion that the benefits do not outweigh the risks,” The Scarborough Hospital’s board chair Stephen Smith said.
The Scarborough Hospital’s website also cites their Community Advisory Council’s opposition to the merger as a major factor.
The Central East Local Health Integration Network’s website does not offer further elaboration on the directive for The Scarborough Hospital to explore other options with nearby institutions, but does have a March 1 press release that notes “several process deficiencies that should be corrected in any future integration discussions.
“These deficiencies include the need to provide a transparent explanation of the vision, aims and scope of an integration, a clear understanding of the benefits of an integration for the community and an appropriate community engagement plan,” the release reads.
The report also states the integration network’s review of the report took issue with some figures contained within.
“The report makes a number of observations related to the financial sustainability of The Scarborough Hospital that are not substantiated by evidence or data previously submitted by the hospital,” it reads.
Devitt contended the Central East network’s decision wasn’t the only factor in the board’s decision.
“Is there any one reason? Can I sort of rate the reasons? No. The (Local Health Integration Network) thing was significant, so were the other things, but we decided the best thing right now for East General is just end the discussions and start to talk about other ideas,” he said.
Nearby resident and member of the now-defunct Friends of Toronto East General Hospital Michael Shapcott said the true answer is far simpler.
“This merger died because the local health integration, the Central East, said ‘No way, you’re not going to do this,’ ” he said. “That put the nail in the coffin.”
Whatever the reason, Shapcott was pleased to hear of the decision because he feels there wasn’t enough community engagement before consultants were hired to prepare a report.
“We’re very concerned that for nine months there wasn’t a process involving engagement and others,” he said. “We know from the report that over 250 stakeholders were consulted, but we can’t see a single stakeholder who is a neighbour of the hospital that is named.”
Devitt said the ultimate decision was based on what is best for the hospital and the community it serves.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on at East General is we do our homework, we do our analysis, we don’t make decisions based on a whim or the flavour of the month,” he said. “We really do our due diligence and that’s why you’ve seen the results you’ve seen.”
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