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Future of hospital care in Niagara takes shape

Posted Nov 2nd, 2023

This is an opinion column by Niagara Health President and Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Guerriero, published in the St. Catharines StandardNiagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune

At first glance, it may look like a typical construction site — piles of excavated dirt, gravel and temporary roads for heavy equipment.

But the property at the corner of Montrose and Biggar roads in Niagara Falls is a vision of beauty to us at Niagara Health. Beyond the construction, we see the future of health care in Niagara taking shape.

After more than a decade of planning and an official ground-breaking this summer, we are making steady progress on what will become, in five years, the south Niagara hospital.

We are building a new, modern hospital system in Niagara to replace outdated, outgrown infrastructure and improve patient experiences.

The south Niagara hospital will be one of three cornerstone hospitals, along with those in St. Catharines and Welland, which will allow us to deliver seamless care to patients across the region.

Our new hospital system will significantly increase capacity to meet the needs of our region’s growing and aging population. It will help people in all communities we serve connect to expert care, closer to home.

While we have just begun construction on the south Niagara hospital, we are already about halfway to achieving our overall redevelopment vision.

The St. Catharines hospital was completed in 2013 and we expect to begin welcoming patients at the south Niagara hospital in 2028. We plan to redevelop the Welland hospital and provide a wide range of services, including 24-7 emergency care and complex care. It will also feature a centre of excellence in eye care and a wide range of outpatient programs, including dialysis, diagnostics and mental health services.

By the end of this process, we will have three modern hospitals that will be Niagara Health.

Niagara will also continue to benefit from buildings that have cared for our communities for decades. Following the opening of the new south Niagara hospital, we will gift our current site to the City of Niagara Falls, and will continue to engage with our communities on how to best utilize the Fort Erie and Port Colborne sites.

Our new hospital system will help us overcome three main challenges: outdated infrastructure, staffing shortages and disconnected services.

By bringing together staffing and expertise at three modern sites, we will provide patients access to the highest quality care from the best clinical experts.

We will provide improved access to specialized care in the areas of mental health and addictions, cardiac, kidney, stroke, cancer, complex care, wellness and aging, eye care and maternity care.
Creating a better-connected system will enable patients and their caregivers to move seamlessly between services and their health-care records will follow them.

However, quality health care is not based on one thing, like a building. It also requires access to family doctors and other community-based care providers. It is grounded in evidence, delivered where and when you need it, by appropriately trained and qualified staff and physicians, and requires strong partnerships.

We are working with local health partners to create new ways for patients to access quality care in community settings. We will create stronger connections to our local health-care partners to expand access to primary care, mental health care, chronic disease management and other services.

Building a new and modern hospital system will also help us recruit and retain expert doctors, nurses and staff. This means more team members providing care to patients.

During a redevelopment project as large as ours — with multiple stages taking place in several communities over many years — it can be challenging to fully grasp the changes we are making and to keep up with our progress.

Over the next few months, we will provide numerous opportunities for people across Niagara to ask questions, seek more information and provide input on our plans.

Please check our website for details about engagement opportunities as they are finalized in the weeks ahead.

Niagara Health System