Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and St. John’s Rehab Hospital are taking the preliminary steps in a proposed merger that would result in improved patient care, hospital officials say.
A public consultation meeting was held on Aug. 29 at St. John’s and featured a presentation from Sunnybrook president and CEO Barry McLellan and St. John’s president and CEO Malcolm Moffat as well as a question and answer period.
In July, the two hospitals announced they had reached an agreement and signed a memorandum of understanding that would see a voluntary integration of the two facilities.
“This isn’t about one organization taking over another organization,” said Moffat. “This is about two organizations that said to each other ‘we think we can do things better if we actually come together’.”
The merger would result in a streamlined process for patients, especially for those transitioning from Sunnybrook to St. John’s for rehabilitation.
“There aren’t enough beds in the acute care system because there are people in those beds that really should be in rehabilitation,” said Moffat. “We work with our acute care partners to help pull those patients out of acute care beds, and put them into a rehabilitation bed where they can get the help that they actually need.”
While there are some one-time costs associated with the merger, such as legal and auditing fees, it’s expected that it would actually save money.
“The savings are greater than obviously the one-time costs, because we couldn’t afford to be moving forward with something like this if it was going to be more costly to the system,” McLellan said.
While the efficiencies are certainly a bonus, the main goal of the integration is to provide better health care.
“This is all about the patients and it’s all about providing seamless care for patients,” McLellan said.
But it’s not only patients that would benefit said McLellan.
“Bringing the groups together, under one organization, there’s no question that we’re going to see better research and teaching in the future,” he said.
Some members of the community, such as Bayview Cummer Neighbourhood Association member Alastair Robertson, expressed concern that the much larger Sunnybrook would change the community feel of St. John’s.
“The challenge I think is to keep the things which are very special about this place,” he said.
He said the relationships people build and the connections they make are a big part of recovery at St. John’s.
McLellan addressed the concern by noting that while Sunnybrook is a larger facility, it still retains a community feel in many of its departments such as the veteran’s wing.
“There are many similarities when we talk about the culture and feel of the organization,” he said.
Both presidents said community feedback has been largely positive and they do not expect additional challenges in getting the merger approved by the Ministry of Health if the political winds change come October.
Part of the memorandum of understanding says the St. John’s name will remain as part of the grounds, and access to St. John’s Rehab from all major referring hospitals would not be affected. The new organization would merge the two boards of directors to have one decision-making body and one budget. The two sites would remain distinct from each other and it is still under discussion whether a name change would be included.
Before the merger takes place, the two Local Health Integration Networks and the Ministry of Health must approve it.
The hospitals are currently creating a business case that will be submitted to the Local Health Integration Networks in early September. Moffat said they hope to have the entire process completed by March 31, 2012.
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