St. Thomas hospital facial surgeries moved after budget spent

By Laura Broadley, St. Thomas Times-Journal


ST. THOMAS – There will be no more major facial and jaw surgeries at the St. Thomas hospital until April, because the hospital already has spent its budget for the year doing so many.

“We have moved some cases around . . . We haven’t cancelled anybody’s case indefinitely,” said Nancy Whitmore, president and chief executive of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.

Five cases planned for February and March have been rearranged.

Two cases were moved to London hospitals and three others have been postponed until after the budget year ends March 31.

The delayed or moved maxillofacial jaw surgeries aren’t the first time the broader London region has seen hospitals idle operating rooms for key surgeries for lack of funding.

In late 2015, several hospitals in the region took that step, with the St. Thomas hospital doing so for hip replacements. Other affected hospitals were in Strathroy and Woodstock.

“There is a funding envelope that we do work within and we have a budget we work through annually to do certain types of cases. Our fiscal year comes to the end March 31 and we always have to remain on budget, so we have rearranged a couple of cases,” Whitmore said of the latest funding gap.

The two surgeries rebooked in London were moved there because the surgeons work at both hospitals, she said.

The remaining three surgeries will occur in April.

As the surgical unit moved into its space in the new expansion at the St. Thomas hospital, there a slowdown, Whitmore said. “I think things are good. I don’t think there’s any ongoing issues.”

The hospital has also had to move around some dental surgeries as it awaits a new dental X-ray machine, Whitmore said.

“We’re waiting for the Ministry of Health to come and approve a new piece of equipment because all X-ray equipment has to be approved by them.”

The hospital is still going ahead with those surgeries, Whitmore said.

MPP Jeff Yurek (PC — Elgin-Middlesex-London), his party’s health critic at Queen’s Park, said surgeries are being postponed yearly due to budget issues.

“This current Liberal government isn’t properly funding our health-care system due to their rationing,” he said.

The solution is better use of operating rooms and proper funding for hospitals, “So that (hospitals are) not either rationing their budget or pushing surgeries down the road to hit another budget year,” Yurek said.

— St. Thomas Times-Journal