Midwives returning to roots, building the future

The Lincoln Community Midwives are coming home to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH).

As announced last week, the midwifery team will be returning to practice at the site on October 3, when the birthing service officially resumes in a 24/7 care model.

“We are all really excited to be coming back to WLMH. It feels like we are returning to our roots while being able to build the future of the program at the same time,” says Pilar Chapman, midwifery site lead for WLMH.

The WLMH obstetrics program has been temporarily redirected to Niagara Health a few times since 2019 as a result of necessary safety upgrades needed at the site, staffing shortages and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current redirect has been in place since December 2021, when the fast-moving Omicron variant spread across the site closing all but a few beds to new patient admissions.

Caring for the community

For a time during the program’s redirect, the midwives worked between both WLMH and Niagara Health providing care for patients. However, as the temporary pause lingered, the team made the difficult decision to stay at Niagara until the program could return 24/7.

“We tried working between the two hospital sites for a while, but it was not working well. There are logistical challenges when working between two different hospitals [sites and systems] each with their own processes. There are also concerns around moving patients in labour or with the possibility of being in labour when the changeover between hospitals happened. Most importantly, patients were stressed about the situation and we just decided to stay at Niagara Health until we could come back 100-per-cent of the time,” said Chapman.

The midwifery service has a long history at WLMH, dating back more than 25 years. WLMH was one of the first hospitals in the region to open its doors to midwives. At the time, the hospital had just one obstetrician practicing and the midwives brought additional support and growth to the program. Midwifery practice makes up an integral part of the interdisciplinary team at low-risk-birthing units working closely with obstetricians, family physicians and nursing colleagues.

“WLMH has traditionally offered a low-risk birthing focus. Midwifery care is a great complimentary service as it primarily deals with normal, low-risk births. We’ve had a great relationship with providers at the hospital for a long time,” said Chapman, noting that prior to the recent service changes, midwives delivered 15-20 per cent of all babies at WLMH.

New hospital, new opportunities

Chapman was quick to express gratitude toward Niagara Health and the team at its St. Catharines’ General site for welcoming them into the fold.

“Our team is very thankful for Niagara [Health] opening their doors to our practice during this period. They were very welcoming and our team has a great relationship with their labour and delivery unit.”

Being at the St. Catharines’ site also helped the seven-person Lincoln midwifery team appreciate the benefit of working in a newer hospital, increasing excitement about the soon-to-be rebuilt WLMH and the opportunities it will hold.

“We look forward to continuing to build a program focused on low-risk, normal births. As a teaching hospital, it holds the opportunity for incorporating further research and evidence into our practice. But we will also be able to teach other obstetrical care providers about this important care model, which can help low-risk birthing units thrive in smaller communities,” said Chapman, who also offered that there are very few Level 1B birthing units – WLMH’s designation – remaining in Ontario.

The midwives aren’t the only ones who are eager for the service to return. Many across the hospital community are counting down the days until the midwives resume practice at WLMH.

“We all are looking forward to a new beginning for our WLMH site,” said Dr. Joan Bellaire, WLMH site medical lead. “It is so momentous for us to welcome our midwives back to the WLMH family and to benefit from their knowledge and skill while working together with our obstetricians, family physicians and our nurses to guide our department towards a centre of excellence for low-risk obstetrics. Their decision to come back was critical in the program being able to return at this juncture.”

Teamwork delivers OBGYN; obstetrics program returns to WLMH

If it takes a village to raise a baby, then it took a hospital community to bring baby services back to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH).


Last week, the hospital announced that the obstetrics program would reopen to expectant mothers at the site on October 3 with a 24/7 model of care. The birthing service has been temporarily redirected to Niagara Health since December 2021, when the fast-moving Omicron variant spread across the site closing all but a few beds to new patient admissions.


“Returning the program needed a lot of moving parts to come together,” said Dr. Bryon DeFrance, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Hamilton Health Sciences, providing medical leadership to birthing programs at McMaster University Medical Centre (MUMC) and WLMH. “Bringing the program back took longer than I think anyone really wanted or expected, but there were some necessary pieces which needed to be in place before that could happen. Specifically, we didn’t have a full team of obstetricians and gynecologists.”


The program had been operating with two full-time OBGYNs, which is about two-thirds of the minimum needed for around-the-clock coverage. When fully operational, the WLMH birthing program has been delivering upwards of 900 babies per year. Four full-time OBGYNs is the magic number in terms patient population size, sharing operating room hours and after-hours call responsibility. For comparison, MUMC has 16 OBGYNs for 4,000 annual deliveries.


Recruitment efforts for two full-time OBGYNs have been underway for months. Multiple candidates have expressed interest, however they would need to complete their existing commitments. That means summer 2023 is the earliest the next full-time OBGYN can start.


Bridging the gap


It became clear that short-term coverage would be needed. Hiring a “locum” – which is health-sector speak for a physician hired on time-limited contract – is quite common. Recruitment quickly turned in that direction. Postings went out across Ontario and nationwide. But something was missing.


“People come to WLMH and fall in love with the culture, but they first need to get in the door,” said Dr. Joan Bellaire, medical lead at WLMH. “A particular challenge that smaller community hospitals can have when recruiting specialized positions is a limited pool of qualified candidates nearby. This role requires the candidate to be a short-distance to the hospital when they are covering call overnight and on weekends, which needed some extra thinking on our end.”


The solution? Providing temporary housing accommodation near the hospital to remove that concern for potential candidates. And for help, the hospital turned to its trusted partner.


“We are completely aligned in our role to support the entire hospital with what it needs,” noted Pamela Ellens, executive director at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Foundation (WLMHF). “With respect to the obstetrics program, we have given close to $600,000 over the past five years based on the hospital’s equipment requests.”

“It was only natural that we would continue to support this vital program, so the WLMHF Board approved a grant to help with recruitment efforts,” said Kevin Antonides, WLMHF Board chair. “A provision for on-demand accommodations when overnight call coverage is needed is being generously provided by a WLMHF Board member who owns a nearby hotel. We know how important this program is to the site and the entire community. We were proud to be able to help out in this way.”


Babies coming back


The collective effort and hiring strategy was successful. The job posting received interest from candidates, and resulted in a commitment from a talented physician who is currently practicing at a hospital north of Toronto. Their skills and expertise will be beneficial to expectant families and women seeking care, but also to start rebuilding the program for long-term success.


“We are very encouraged by the result. Two physicians cannot cover all of the potential deliveries around the clock all week, it’s just too many hours to cover. This added bench strength means we can bring the program home to the site in a safe and sustainable manner,” said DeFrance.


Over the next two years, the plan is to add two additional full-time OBGYNs to the program, bringing the total to four. Operating a team of four full-time OBGYNs will be the largest physician complement in the program’s history at WLMH.

HHS obstetrical nurse training program a labour of love

In-house partnership “builds the teams we want and need” amid WLMH service pause, global staffing crisis

Nursing positions within the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) obstetrics program have historically been hard to come by. The program’s reputation and culture make it a place where many staff often start out of school, and then stay for their entire career.

When a spot opened up in August 2021, Courtney Davis didn’t miss the opportunity to throw her hat in the ring.

“It was hard to get in because nobody ever left,” said Davis, a registered practical nurse who spent the previous four years working at the site on a general medicine unit. “When I was hired in medicine at WLMH, the obstetrics program had a great reputation. I’d always considered working here.”

The birthing service has been temporarily redirected to Niagara Health a few times since 2019 as a result of necessary safety upgrades needed at the site, staffing shortages and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current redirect has been in place since December 2021, when the fast-moving Omicron variant spread across the site closing all but a few beds to new patient admissions. Last week, the hospital announced that the obstetrics program would reopen to deliveries at the site on October 3 in a 24/7 care model. The reopening follows months of necessary work to rebuild the program.

Recent hires into the program need to add or enhance their existing obstetrical skills in preparation for the fall return. But with limited volumes at WLMH due to the redirect, a unique in-house training program has been developed in partnership with the labour and delivery team at Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster University Medical Centre (MUMC), which is attached to McMaster Children’s Hospital.

The team at MUMC deliver approximately 4,000 births a year, many of which are high-risk.

Specific skill set needed

“When hiring a nurse to work in the obstetrical service, I’m really looking for a few things,” said Angela Leslie, clinical manager in WLMH’s obstetrics department. “First, do they have general nursing experience? Then, there are specific skills needed to be successful in the role like fetal heart monitoring, perinatal certificate and neonatal ressucitation.”

The in-house training is beneficial to the WLMH nursing team, and is also welcomed by the McMaster team as well.

“The advantage of having McMaster in our system with its volumes and nurses with such expertise is a fantastic learning opportunity. But it also benefits the McMaster team as well, bringing skilled nurses and a few extra sets of hands into the delivery rooms to help with those volumes has also been well received,” Leslie pointed out.

Caring for adults and babies


Even for experienced nurses like Davis, making the transition to caring for newborns has a learning curve as the role requires a 50/50 split in assessing and treating moms and babies.

“All of the assessments are different and all of the vital signs are different. Over eight years of nursing I’ve developed a ‘nursing intuition’ about things. Now we’re adding some specific skills needed to safely care for these little patients,” Davis noted.

Shyma Prince agrees. Originally trained as an obstetrical nurse in India, Prince brings significant operating room nursing skills to the WLMH obstetrics team, which she honed while most recently working at a hospital in Alberta.

“Since being hired we have mostly done c-section deliveries at West Lincoln. We have had the opportunity to work with the team at McMaster to assist with high-risk deliveries as well as upgrading post-partum care skills, caring for mothers as they heal from the delivery,” said Prince, a registered nurse who was hired in February 2022.

Team critical to success

According to Shasta Cividino, clinical manager in labour and delivery at MUMC, there are many experiential learnings beyond skills development which can also be gained through training opportunities like this partnership.

“Being a regional centre, staff get exposure to wide variety of normal low-risk and high-risk care. But they also have the opportunity to experience emergencies which will happen in every birthing centre. In those situations, developing the wherewithal to understand how the team can come together and work through a situation is very important,” she said, adding that there are many unique situations and cases a nurse will see only once in a 30-year career.

Another benefit of spending time in different clinical settings is the chance to build a community of practice with other nurses. A result Cividino calls the “phone-a-friend” mentality.

“Mentorship in health care can be sometimes hard to achieve, especially given the current generational shift going on. We have a wealth of people in that intermediate to expert range to talk and vent to and deconstruct scenarios with. This is great for workplace wellness. You can’t bring these conversations home because of confidentiality and privacy, which is where like-minded colleagues can really help you through those situations,” she said.

Hiring in a global staffing crisis

Finding experienced obstetrical nurses – or any specialty nursing position – is increasingly challenging in the current climate. Health care professionals are in short supply after what many sources attribute to two years of pandemic chaos across the sector. According to Leslie, training programs like this will be increasingly important.

“It’s extremely competitive out there trying to find staff,” she said. “For the obstetrics roles, we are looking at all angles to reach candidates where they are and where they are looking for work. We get candidates for every posting but most don’t have the complete skill set we need. We are fortunate to have in-house training opportunities to help build the teams we want and need.”

The intensity of hiring has also increased. Candidates have many options so they don’t wait too long for a hiring manager to respond to their inquiries. Fortunately, the promise of the new hospital continues to attract great candidates.

“The biggest selling point is the new hospital. Everyone wants to work in a state-of-the-art, smart hospital in a beautiful and growing community. It will allow us to further incorporate research and education into practice. We have a very bright future,” Leslie noted.

Over at MUMC, Cividino – who has held roles during her career at WLMH – believes the new hospital and the program’s reputation will be a perfect storm bringing many expectant mothers to the site to deliver.

“When the new hospital opens its doors, the team can anticipate a much busier obstetrical program with the attraction of a new site, exceptional care delivery standard and a growing community in West Niagara.”

Photos: Tearing down, building up

If you’ve been by the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital site lately, you will probably notice that it doesn’t look quite the same anymore. Work continues to roll along at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital to prepare for construction on the new hospital. If you haven’t been by recently, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Workers are renovating the emergency department (ED) platform. The awning has been removed and a giant retaining wall is being built to increase the space outside of the ED.
View from the ED. The purpose of this work is to allow enough space for ambulances to turn around and then return to the street down the ED driveway, as opposed to exiting out the east parking lot exit.
Speaking of the east parking lot exit, a construction access pathway has been created. The access on the west side of the building will also be used as an access point.
Construction trailers – three to be exact – have moved onto the front lawn. These will provide space to the construction teams to conduct meetings without taking over space inside the hospital.
Roughly 35 trees across the site were taken down in preparation for new hospital construction. Efforts are being made to protect all trees which are at high risk of exposure to construction activity. More than 120 trees will be planted throughout the redevelopment project.
A walkway connecting WLMH with Deer Park Villa is being taken down. The walkway is directly in the path of construction. It’s location is very close to where the new hospital’s front entrance will be.
Soon, the area in the forefront will be excavated and formed for the hospital’s basement and footings.
With the loss of parking due to construction, off-site parking has been arranged for staff. So has a shuttle to the lot.
General rules of engagement for the project: safety always first!

Obstetrics services resuming October 3

Program rebuilding includes return of WLMH Midwives

The below is an abbreviated version of a staff and physician message shared on August 17, 2022

Starting October 3, the labour and delivery program will return to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) site, operating in a 24/7 model of care. This is the result of many months of work and significant recruitment efforts by multiple departments at the site and across Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), to bring the service back in a sustainable manner. This was also made possible by significant partner contributions, including the WLMH Foundation and Niagara Health.

Specifics include:

• Physician coverage will be enhanced by a new obstetrician and gynecologist who will join the program on a six-month contract, with the possibility of extension for an additional four months.
• Following months of aggressive recruitment efforts, program staffing is currently sufficient to return based on expected near-term patient volumes. Recruitment will continue to ensure further coverage as volumes grow over the coming months.
• WLMH’s operating room team is also growing with the addition of new procedures and surgeries being delivered at the site, which will allow for a 24/7 call schedule to support urgent after hours obstetrical cases.
• As part of a return to 24/7 coverage, we are excited to welcome the WLMH Midwifery team back to the site. WLMH Midwives have been practicing at Niagara Health, and will provide care to expectant mothers, families and babies at WLMH starting October 3. Their presence will be an essential piece of the program’s transition back to the site by adding ongoing low-risk obstetrics mentoring to the nursing team, as well as for the long-term success of the program.

In addition, recruitment has progressed toward hiring two additional full-time OBGYNs to the program. Interviews will take place this fall. A team of four FT OBGYNs – the largest physician complement the program has ever operated – will add stability and predictability to the program, enabling long-term growth.

This period of temporary redirect has been longer than anyone expected or wanted. We are optimistic that the foundational rebuilding mentioned above represents the start of the program’s next chapter.

Thank you to our staff and physicians who remain committed to serving patients at the site and in this program, despite the many changes over the past few years. We would also like to acknowledge the WLMH Foundation which graciously provided the hospital with a grant to assist with OBGYN recruitment, in addition to its ongoing financial support of the program. Finally, we thank our partners at Niagara Health in caring for WLMH mothers and babies during this time.

Preparing the new hospital site for success

Early site works well underway at WLMH

With the ground officially “broken” on the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH), attention has quickly turned toward prepping the site for the build.

Early site works, which generally refers to activities required to prepare the site for construction, have been taking place since the end of April. This includes removing trees which were in the path of construction (35 were removed, with 122 new trees to be planted over the course of the project), locating and moving existing mechanical systems, and decommissioning some physical spaces connected to the existing hospital.

RELATED: New WLMH a done deal

“Depending on the site, there can be significant work needed to make it a safe, blank slate for excavation,” said Kelly Campbell, VP, Corporate Services and Capital Development at Hamilton Health Sciences. “The WLMH build site is pretty open, but it has a relatively small footprint so there is some demolition work that needs to be done ahead of construction. From the street, it may not look like much is happening at the moment, but there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes and on site.”

Notably, there is a service corridor connecting the existing hospital and Deer Park Villa located at the north end of the property. This enclosed walkway, which includes the WLMH kitchen used by hospital Nutrition Services, will be need to be removed ahead of construction. A new home for Nutrition Services – the team and area responsible for feeding inpatients – has been created inside the hospital and the walkway will soon be hoarded off and taken down.

Another early works change happening at the site will involve an alternate plan for some site parking. Parts of the existing lot will be converted to construction access, and hoarding is planned to be erected during the coming month. To offset parking demand at the site, HHS has struck a partnership with a nearby church for staff and physician parking through the week. Parking spaces at the site will be reserved for patients and families, and a small number for emergency on-call physicians.

“We knew from the beginning that access to the build site and parking would be something we need to address. With the support of our church partner, we’ve created a suitable off-site parking arrangement for our staff and physicians during the construction period,” said Campbell, noting that once the new hospital is built and the existing hospital is removed, on-site parking at WLMH will grow considerably.

Probably the biggest change in the coming weeks will be the addition of construction office trailers at the front of the hospital. While not an early site work per se, nothing screams progress like a build team setting up a field office on-site. Once positioned, the trailers will be surrounded by hoarding and wrapped with project signage, creating a safe space on-site for project meetings to take place outside of the existing hospital building.

So, when will ground actually be broken on the new hospital?

“Early works will continue over the summer and into the beginning of fall, at which time excavation and construction can start. This will continue through to fall 2024, when we can start moving furniture and fixtures in and commissioning the building. Substantial Completion is targeted for early 2025 and patients will be able to receive care in the new hospital shortly after that,” said Campbell.

Celebrating the WLMH CT’s scanniversary

It’s been a year since the team at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) provided its first computed tomography (CT) scan at the site. Getting to that historic day last June was more than a decade in the making.

“What an amazing year we’ve had here in the CT department at West Lincoln,” said Mindy Chmielewski, Sr. CT Technologist at WLMH. “One year of providing care to the community and helping to reduce wait times across Hamilton Health Sciences network. I really couldn’t have asked for a better team to persevere through these difficult times we are facing in healthcare. We have amazing support within the community and within our hospital site as well.”

RELATED: Video – “A Very Bright Future”

Over the past year, more than 7,300 scans were performed at the site. Approximately 3,000 of those scans were either inpatient or patients from the emergency department. Previously, these patients would need to be taken to a clinical site in Hamilton to receive the scan. A nurse from WLMH would usually go with the patient on that journey.

“Having the CT scan at the site has significantly decreased our investigational delays and as a result has allowed us to diagnose and resolve our patients health concern in less time,” said Dr. Joan Bellaire, Medical Site Lead at WLMH. “It has considerably improved the flow of our patients within our emergency department. It has also eliminated the need for nurses to accompany our patients off site for an off-site CT scan, which eased some of the challenges with nursing shortages that we and most hospitals are facing.”

RELATED: Story – Going the extra mile for patients

By all accounts, integrating the CT scanner into site operations has been essentially seamless. This is largely due to many teams at the site who work together to create a patient care atmosphere that is “second to none.”

“Since its implementation, site teams have collaborated to provide a remarkable experience for patients and families,” said Bethany Hancocks, clinical manager responsible for diagnostic imaging (DI), emergency department and other units at WLMH. “The DI team has worked diligently to ensure all of our techs have the essential training they need to complete these essential exams for patients in the West Niagara community and surrounding areas. The commitment to providing an optimal patient experience is recognized not only on the smiles of the patients we see through the department, but also in the feedback we have received from our grateful patients and families.”

The path to bring the CT to the site was a long one, but was accelerated by HHS’ landmark Managed Equipment Services (MES) agreement with Siemens Healthineers in early 2020. It was also supported by generous community donations through the WLMH Foundation.

RELATED: Photos – building the WLMH CT suite

WLMH key to HHS’ innovative surgical plan

Plan made possible through Surgical Innovation Fund

Three Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) hospital sites are partnering to tackle wait times for certain spine, knee and eye day surgeries.

These surgeries currently have wait times longer than the provincial targets. This plan, made possible through $450,000 from the province’s Surgical Innovation Fund, will help reduce wait times overall.

This plan will see some day surgeries for adults currently performed at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH) and McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) move to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) in Grimsby.

Read the full story here.

New West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is a done deal!

Now its time to build!

Shovels are about to hit the ground on the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH)!

The Government of Ontario approved the start of construction to begin on the new Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) site following the closing of the project contract between EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare (EDIH) and HHS on April 29, 2022.

Related: read the full news release

The next day, local elected, hospital and community leaders gathered to celebrate.

Here are a few pics from the day.

Surgeries, procedures resuming March 21

Birthing services to resume at WLMH on April 19

Please note the following update on the status of scheduled care and obstetrical services at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH).

Scheduled Care

Starting Monday, March 21, scheduled procedures and surgical activity will resume at WLMH. This follows the latest provincial directive which allows hospitals to reintroduce procedures and services that were paused at the height of the omicron wave of the pandemic. Surgical teams which were deployed to support other hard hit areas during the most recent wave have returned to the site. Providers will be in touch with patients to schedule their procedures.

Obstetrical Care

Obstetrical services will return to WLMH site as of Tuesday, April 19 at 7:00 a.m. The program will return to the same model that was previously in place, with birthing services available around-the-clock from Tuesday morning to Friday afternoon. Scheduled deliveries will progress as determined by the patient’s care plan.

Temporarily redirecting these services in December was a last resort, and is not ideal from a service continuity perspective. However, it was necessary at the time to preserve enough bed capacity to keep the Emergency Department open during consecutive COVID outbreaks at the site. We are well aware of the impacts that extended periods of service redirect have on our patients and people, and sincerely thank everyone for their efforts during this time.

EllisDon Team Selected to Build New WLMH

HAMILTON, ON – EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare (EDIH) has been selected as the preferred proponent to design, build and finance the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) redevelopment project.

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) selected EDIH after extensive evaluations following an open, fair and competitive request for proposals process that began in June 2021.

“EllisDon is a market leader in the delivery of important health-care infrastructure projects across Ontario, with a long history of innovation and collaboration working with public partners,” said Kelly Campbell, HHS’ VP of Corporate Services and Capital Development. “We are excited for their vision to bring this project to life. As we move forward with our preferred design-build partner, we acknowledge and are grateful for the time and energy that all teams put into their proposals to build the future WLMH.”

The EDIH team includes:

  • Applicant Leads: EllisDon Corporation
  • Design Team: Parkin Architects Limited
  • Construction Team: EllisDon Corporation
  • Financial Advisor: EllisDon Capital Inc.

IO and HHS will now work to finalize contract details with EDIH.

“EllisDon has a proven record in delivering quality capital projects across Ontario,” said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West. “The people of Niagara West who have worked so hard to see construction begin on the new hospital can be confident in the high degree of professionalism that they will bring to this project, as we all eagerly look forward to shovels in the ground, and the doors opening on this vital project.”

The project is expected to reach financial close in the coming weeks, which will mean that relevant contracts have been signed and a financing rate has been set.

“We are thrilled with this great news,” said Andrew Smith, Campaign Chair for Take it to the Finish…Building a Healthy Community. “We wish to thank all those who have participated in bringing us closer to the reality of a new hospital; our donors who have been continuously generous, the leadership of our Foundation board and its staff, Campaign members, HHS, Save & Rebuild team, local municipalities and Region. We have always believed in our community and have full confidence that together we could and can accomplish the local share goal of $50 million. We are so very close to ‘Taking it to the Finish…Building a Healthy Community’ let’s take it across the finish line!”

The contract cost will be announced publicly following financial close and construction is scheduled to begin shortly thereafter.

“One call does it all”

Multi-year overhaul of diagnostic imaging equipment benefits from MES agreement

Change has been a consistent theme at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital over the past few years.

From an equipment perspective, the diagnostic imaging (DI) service has arguably seen the greatest amount of change during this time period. With the operating room renovations in 2020 came the new C-arm machine. Then the site’s first-ever computed tomography (CT) scanner opened for patient care in mid-2021. Immediately after, work got started on upgrading the mammography and two x-ray suites.

“We have all been so excited for so long to get two x-ray rooms open,” said Mindy Chmielewski, senior CT technologist at WLMH. “Prior to the renovation, we had two rooms and machines, but one of the machines could only perform a limited amount of procedures. That machine was also very old and the quality of images was not good. It was stiff and difficult to maneuver, which was a challenge for staff and posed significant risk for injury.”

The first renovated x-ray room opened in fall 2021. The second room became operational on February 14, essentially completing the multi-year DI overhaul at the site.

More machines, more efficiency

“Now that we have two fully functional rooms and machines, we can be far more efficient with patient care. We don’t have to wait for the other technologist to finish, we can just do our exams and get patients on their way,” said Amy Tousignant, senior x-ray technologist.

Chmielewski agrees. “When the emergency department was full and we knew we had a lot of patients requiring x-rays, it seemed like a really daunting task to coordinate in a timely manner with one machine. Now, it’s really easy and reduces stress in our day.”

Renovations, upgrades enhance safety

The x-ray suites themselves also got a makeover. The renovation included safety updates to the paneling inside the walls required to contain the radiation. The team also took the opportunity to reconfigure the space to improve overall function and safety, like adding a control room in between the two suites which lets staff monitor both rooms and easily assist colleagues in either when they need a hand.

“You can tell that function was definitely considered when they planned these renovations,” said Chmielewski, who added that the renovated rooms have received many “oohs and ahhs” from patients.

The new x-ray machines are fully automated meaning limited physical force is needed to operate.

“The ergonomic elements alone are amazing. Technologists are susceptible to injury from repetitive motions, particularly upper back injuries. These rooms and equipment are safer for staff and therefore safer for patients,” added Tousignant.

The renovation also repurposed an existing hallway into a staff room which Chmielewski, Tousignant and their colleagues call, “the team room.”

In June 2021, WLMH’s first-ever computed tomography (CT) scanner opened at the site.

CT scanner serving the community

The CT scanner saw its first patients in June 2021. Since then, the demand for the service has grown steadily. Currently, it is fully booked pretty much every day.

“We get tons of positive feedback from patients, largely about receiving care closer to home and decreased wait times for service. Patients also love the space and compliment us on the suite and facilities,” said Chmielewski. “We have received thank you cards from patients which I’ve never seen before in my career. It is a very rewarding place to work.”

All of the recent DI equipment has been procured through the landmark Managed Equipment Services (MES) agreement that Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) made with Siemens Healthineers in early 2020. One of the most innovative pieces of the agreement is the built-in service component, which streamlines maintenance and limits machine downtime.

“MES has been really good. Each piece of equipment is labelled with a device ID number and a phone number for tech support. If anything goes wrong, we can easily get a hold of tech support around the clock to troubleshoot or schedule a maintenance call. One call does it all,” said Chmielewski.

Hospital under construction

All of this progress does not come without challenges. The noise and unavoidable chaos which comes with construction has been part of daily life at the site for many years.

“Working in a hospital under construction has been difficult. However, when I started here six years ago, it was clear how bad a state the hospital was in and how much work was needed. Yes, it can be a pain to hear the noise and have your workflow disrupted. But knowing that better things are coming, like the two new x-ray rooms, helps you get through it,” said Tousignant, who was quick to add that the construction team has been extremely courteous and respectful throughout the renos.

Diego Gomez knows this challenge all too well. As the project manager responsible for delivering all MES projects across HHS, he has worked closely with the construction team to sequence the projects at WLMH to minimize disruption while sticking to schedules.

“The feedback we have received about our contractors from staff and end users across the site has been excellent. It takes a lot of coordination from contractors, consultants, Siemens and site staff to execute these projects, but I feel like this is an example of great teamwork achieving great results,” said Gomez, pointing out that every project was completed on time and on budget.

Looking to the future

All of the DI equipment will carry over in to the new hospital. The future has been a shining light for many staff at the site.

“I’ve worked at different places but I’ve never had such a sense of team as I’ve seen here. It’s a positive environment and great atmosphere. We all know that things are going to get better in the new hospital and that the challenges of this building are now temporary. We’re a pretty resilient bunch,” said Tousignant.

COVID-19 Update: New outbreak declared

C-Ward, ICU outbreaks declared over

Today, HHS Infection, Prevention and Control (IPAC), in consultation with Niagara Public Health, has declared a COVID-19 outbreak on B Ward at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH). Less than five patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in relation to the outbreak.

Additional patient and staff point prevalence testing is underway. The earliest this outbreak can be declared over is January 12, 2022.

The previous outbreaks on C Ward and ICU were declared over on December 29. C Ward is open to admissions.

A message to the WLMH community

Last year, we started this message off by noting how remarkable a year 2020 was.

It’s safe to say that 2021 has followed a similar path.

Over the past 12 months, our teams across Hamilton Health Sciences, including those at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH), have continued to demonstrate resilience, dedication, and courage serving patients with unwavering compassion in the most challenging of times. Staff and physicians continue to rise to each occasion and meet every difficult endeavour head on.

At WLMH, we saw many staff bring their highly specialized skills to other hospital sites, helping out in the hardest hit patient care areas, and others volunteering their skills at vaccination sites. Some programs at the site saw twists and turns as the hospital followed the government’s direction in response to the unrelenting virus, changing the way our providers deliver and patients receive care.

All of that turbulence did not stop progress on major WLMH initiatives.

For the first time in the site’s almost 75-year history, patients can now get timely and critical computed tomography (CT) scans in West Niagara. This momentous achievement was the result of many years of work by many hands – in the hospital, the Foundation, the community and at Queen’s Park. The site is now also home to two new x-ray machines and a new mammography suite, allowing more opportunity for preventative screening close to home.

As we head into 2022, we are just months – yes, months – away from construction being able to start on the new hospital. Getting here has taken immense effort, energy and emotional investment. It has been a long road travelled, but when shovels finally break ground on this long-overdue project, we think we will all agree that it was time well spent.

On behalf of Hamilton Health Sciences, we would like to wish our staff, physicians, volunteers, families, donors, community and supporters a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season, and what promises to be a very exciting New Year.

Rob MacIsaac, President and CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences

Leslie Gillies, VP, Community Medicine & Population Health, & Exec Site Lead, WLMH – Hamilton Health Sciences

This message was originally drafted for the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Foundation annual Trees of Healthy Wishes campaign.

Teams submit technical RFPs for new WLMH

Financial submissions due January 2022

The West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) Redevelopment project moved a little closer to becoming a reality as the technical Request for Proposals (RFP) period closed.

Technical submissions include individual plans for the design, layout and execution of the future facility. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and Infrastructure Ontario (IO) will now begin a rigorous evaluation of the technical submissions.

The financial component of the RFP is expected to close in January 2022, after which time HHS and IO will be able to select a preferred proponent and negotiate a contract with that team.

“As we turn the corner into the New Year, we will very soon be able to determine and share who will build the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and what it will look like,” said Kelly Campbell, Vice-President, Corporate Services & Capital Development at HHS. “We thank each of the teams for the time, effort and energy they have invested into developing their technical proposals for this project. Very soon, we will have the exciting yet challenging task of selecting one winner from the high-quality and unique submissions.”

It is anticipated the successful team will be announced in spring 2022, and construction will begin shortly thereafter.


The RFP was posted at the end of June 2021. The three shortlisted teams – which were determined through an open Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process earlier this year – were invited to respond to the RFP for the new hospital. The RFP package included more than 5,500 technical requirements set by HHS, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and IO, which each team must satisfy in its submission.

“This is an exciting next step towards the build of the new West Niagara hospital the community has been working towards for many years,” said Sam Oosterhoff, Niagara West MPP. “This legacy community healthcare infrastructure will provide care and treatment to many patients in our community for years to come, and I wish to thank all those who have worked so hard to get the new build to this point. The Government of Ontario is committed to working with Hamilton Health Sciences and the whole community in getting the new hospital built as soon as possible.”

Q&A: Leadership lessons learned

For the last four-plus years, Cindy MacDonald has been the Director of Community Programs and Site Administrator at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. She recently announced her retirement which is set for the end of December 2021. She graciously (and humbly) agreed to sit down for a Rapid Fire Q&A session to share some of insights from her career and advice for younger health-care workers looking to take the leap into management.

(Dear Reader, please note that the feature photo shared with this story was taken long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Cindy, like all members of our team, diligently follow public health guidelines, including masking and physical distancing.)

Q. Best piece of advice you’ve been given about leadership?

A. My mentor told me a long time ago: “surround yourself with bright lights,” meaning other people who are committed to excellence and kindness. Bright lights bring people together and help others grow and evolve.

Q. What would you say to someone who wants to get into health-care management?

A. First thing I would ask is “why”? What do you want to achieve in your career? What’s your definition of leadership? If you’re coming into a leadership role for any other anything other than wanting to provide leadership to those around you and support patients and the organization, you may not be successful. Leadership is not about you as an individual but how you can support others to be successful. It can be a very challenging at times and you have to be in it for the right reasons. If your heart is at the bedside, you can be a leader in compassionate and evidence based care, teamwork, advocacy – there is a need for bedside leadership as well.

Q. Most important skills health-care leaders should have to be successful?

A. Communication is very important. The challenge of communicating in a digital world is that email isn’t always the best way to get a message across. How do you ensure people are informed and have what they need to do their job? How to you bring information to people as opposed to thinking they’ll seek it out on their own?

Q. Best piece of advice about being staying grounded in a management role?

A. Part of being a good leader is reflecting and learning, but you’ll never achieve everything you want to do in a role. It’s about doing the best job you can do and making positive change for those around you.

Q. Any leadership myths you’d like to dispel?

A. People sometimes think when you take on leadership positions that you need to change, but you don’t. What you do need to be is authentic and stay true to yourself.

Q. Best part about your time at WLMH?

A. The team who come in every day and provide the best care possible for patients. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in a community hospital for the first time in my career. I’m honoured to be of service to the community, and grateful for being part of the exciting conversations about the new hospital.

Q. Plans for retirement?

A. Lots. But after 36 years of working full time in health care, I’m looking forward to what life wants to show me next.

“Perfect time” to get screened

New WLMH mammography machine up and running


The latest upgrade to diagnostic services at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) is new state-of-the-art mammography equipment that provides routine 2D mammography as well as 3D imaging, also called tomosynthesis.


Mammography technologists at WLMH started using the new machine — a GE model called the Pristina — earlier this month. It replaces the hospital’s aging mammography machine, and is part of upgrades through Managed Equipment Services (MES).


The HHS Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre’s CIBC Breast Assessment Centre (BAC) in Hamilton received three of the same model of machines.


“WLMH now has a top-of-the-line mammography machine with all the bells and whistles to perform screening mammograms, diagnostic studies in people with breast concerns and tomosynthesis,” says Dr. Kavita Dhamanaskar, an HHS radiologist with expertise in breast imaging. Dhamanaskar was part of the MES team that was instrumental in bringing the new machines to WLMH and the BAC.


The new machines provide traditional 2D digital mammography for routine breast screening as well as leading-edge 3D technology. With 2D mammography, two x-ray images are taken – one from the top of the breast and one from the side. The 3D mammography provides a more detailed look by obtaining a set of breast images at different angles.
Radiologists recommend tomosynthesis views when a person is recalled for further evaluation of abnormal findings on routine mammogram. This more advanced 3D scan can also be used for screening people with dense breasts.


Improved experience for patients and staff


Until this month, WLMH patients needing detailed assessment or extra views were sent to the BAC. “Now these patients can have complete diagnostic assessment right here in Grimsby instead of travelling into Hamilton,” says WLMH clinical manager Bethany Hancocks, whose responsibilities include diagnostic imaging.


Patients have shared that they’re pleased with the new machine, which is designed to provide a more comfortable experience, says WLMH mammography technologist Natasha Brandel. It’s also more user friendly for technologists, provides higher-quality scans than its predecessor, and is faster.


It has been a big year for diagnostics at WLMH, with a new CT scanner added in summer and now the new mammography machine. It’s all part of a plan to replace and upgrade most of the site’s diagnostic imaging fleet.


Ontario Breast Screening Program


WLMH is home to an Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) site, serving West Niagara and Hamilton residents. The OBSP offers free mammograms to people ages 50 to 74 as part of their routine health care. It’s recommended that most women in this age group get a mammogram every two years since early detection can catch breast cancer when it’s small and is easier to treat.


Anyone in the 50 to 74 year age group who’s due or overdue for a mammogram is encouraged to book their own appointment by phone at an OBSP site that’s most convenient for them. A referral is not necessary, although appointments can also be booked through a person’s primary care provider.


This year, due to delays caused by the pandemic, women aged 75 can also book their own appointment. Outside of the provincial breast screening program, women over 75 and under 50 can book through their primary care provider if screening is deemed necessary due to personal circumstances such as a family history.


“Now is the perfect time for people who are due or overdue to book their mammogram,” says Dhamanaskar.

WLMH welcomes Dr. Mosher, OBGYN

For Dr. Andrea Mosher, coming to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is a bit of a homecoming.

“This opportunity at WLMH is somewhat full circle for me,” said Dr. Mosher, WLMH’s newest obstetrician and gynecologist. “I grew up in Niagara Falls, did my undergrad at Queens University, went to medical school in Calgary, and took my residency in Hamilton. I am excited for this opportunity to come back to the Niagara community.”

At a young age, Dr. Mosher set her sights on a career in medicine. Influenced by a family friend who was a physician practicing obstetrics in a low-risk birthing environment, she started considering a similar path for herself.

“Being a doctor was always a dream of mine. When I was in medical school I did rotations in obstetrics and I was then matched into the residency program. It’s an honour to be part of families’ birthing experiences and help them welcome a new life into their family and world,” she said.

Dr. Mosher is currently practicing at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. She officially starts at WLMH on October 1. The community medical model in place at West Lincoln will be a change, but a welcomed opportunity to practice in a different care environment with new colleagues.

“The model is unique as it allows you to interact with many other providers from the hospital and community. This presents a great opportunity for continued collaboration and growth because it always keeps you learning and encourages experience sharing with each other. It’s very important to me that I’m always advancing but also helping others advance as well,” noted Dr. Mosher.

In addition to her expert clinical skills and experience, she brings another personal yet critical element to her practice which enhances her interaction with patients during their journey to parenthood.

“I’m a mother of two young boys. This is an important piece of who I am but also how I engage with my patients. Having my children let me learn what it was like from a patient’s perspective and where appropriate, I bring this into my work. While it’s definitely not a requirement for practicing obstetrics, personally, I feel like it helps me connect with new and expecting moms and parents,” she explains.

Dr. Mosher is also a practicing gynecologist and will continue this work at WLMH. Through her appointment at McMaster University, Dr. Mosher’s current research focuses on endometriosis – a common but underdiagnosed condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus – with the goal of expanding knowledge of the symptoms toward earlier diagnosis and treatment.

When asked if she had a preference between her two specialties, she gave a considered chuckle before responding.

“I like to say: I came to the specialty for the obstetrics and stayed for the gynecology,” she said. “I really love them both and I think they complement each other well. I am excited to see that gynecology has significant [operating room] time allocated at WLMH and it will be great to get in there work through some of the backlog caused by the pandemic. Being able to help fill a clinical need for a community is humbling.”

The obstetrics program has been temporarily redirected to Niagara Health following a provincial directive earlier in the year which paused scheduled care and facilitated the redeployment of hospital staff to critical care and other clinical areas hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. WLMH staff who contributed to this response have since returned to the site.

Separately, in the past year, two of the site’s three obstetricians have departed to pursue professional opportunities abroad. Dr. Nwachukwu [ChuChu] Nwebube who leads WLMH’s obstetrics and gynecology department has remained steadfast in his role and has been the sole obstetrician/gynecologist on site for a number of months.

From an operations perspective, there are three essential pieces needed to run an obstetrics and gynecology program: operating room (OR) staff and OR availability, obstetrics staff, and obstetricians/gynecologists. Dr. Mosher’s arrival is a big step toward fulfilling the physician complement and resuming obstetrical care at the site starting October 5.

“We’re grateful to staff who took on different roles to help out across Hamilton Health Sciences sites during the pandemic, but we’re also really glad to have them back at the site,” said Cindy MacDonald, director of community programs and WLMH site administrator. “Our OR and obstetrical staffing has been stabilized. Dr. Mosher is passionate to work in the community and her arrival is an opportunity to rejuvenate the program. We’re excited for her to start, and at the same time we’re all incredibly thankful to Dr. Nwebube for his dedication and commitment to our patients and the program.”

Arguably, no one at WLMH is more eager for Dr. Mosher’s arrival than Dr. Nwebube.

“Over the last year, we’ve worked through the loss of two obstetricians and it’s very promising to welcome Dr. Mosher to the team,” he said. “She brings great expertise and talents to the program and to our patients. Her contributions will be important as we serve patients in the current building, but also as we transition to the new hospital and restore the program to its former glory and beyond. In addition to her clinical practice, she’s also an accomplished researcher and we’re looking forward to her bringing this important element to the care we provide.”

With the birthing program set to resume, consideration needs to be given that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very unpredictable in the community and the government-driven response which may be needed in the coming months is yet unknown. However, most people at the site are now looking a little farther down the road; to the opening of the new hospital.

“The promise of the new hospital holds a lot of potential,” said Dr. Mosher, who noted the prospect of a rebuilt WLMH played into her decision to accept this role. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to work in a new facility which is being built with community growth in mind and patient care at the centre of everything. Also, the new hospital will let us further grow the obstetrics program and provide long-term stability for patients in the community.”

The WLMH redevelopment is currently in Stage 4 of the planning process, with the Request For Proposals (RFP) currently out to tender. Shovels are looking to hit the ground in June 2022.

Obstetrics services resuming October 5

Obstetrics services at WLMH will resume starting October 5, supporting deliveries from Tuesday morning to Friday afternoon.

Outside of these hours of operation, women in labour or requiring assessment will be redirected to deliver at the St. Catharines site of Niagara Health (NH).

This is the same model that was in place prior to the provincial directive earlier this year which temporarily paused scheduled care to allow hospital staff and physicians to support clinical areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our obstetricians and family physicians will retain their privileges at both hospitals, allowing continuity of care for patients. In situations where WLMH physicians are not able to attend a delivery, the patient will be under the care of the NH obstetrician on call


Midwifery care will be provided at NH only.

EXPECTING FAMILIES: this handout is for you.


Once again, the obstetrics service resumption will be assessed on an ongoing basis to determine if and how it can be extended. The goal is to provide as many hours of obstetrics services as possible, as long as its sustainable from a staffing and resourcing perspective to do so.

Hamilton Health Sciences is grateful for our ongoing partnership with NH and its team who continue to make this service arrangement possible until obstetrics services can fully resume at WLMH. We also appreciate the flexibility and professionalism our staff and physicians have demonstrated during this period of transition.

“Exciting part of the development process”

Work continues on rebuild project

The Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued at the very end of June, meaning the three teams vying for the project have all of the requirements needed to complete their bids.

For the redevelopment team which has been working furiously throughout the planning phases to get this project over the finish line, it’s a chance to take stock of all their efforts.

“This is an exciting part of the development process,” said Bart DeVries, director of redevelopment at Hamilton Health Sciences. “Our team has spent the better part of two years consulting and planning for the new hospital. Now we’re at the stage where we get to see that hard work materialize in the plans being developed by the design-build teams competing to win the project.”

Working behind-the-scenes

While this is a relatively quiet period in terms of public milestones and updates, lots of work is happening behind the scenes.

“Together with Infrastructure Ontario, we meet with each bid team on almost a weekly basis. Some of these meetings are a few hours in duration to cover their progress on schedules, IT and equipment planning, etc. In August, September, and October there are all-day meetings with each team where they share their current design iterations and walk us through their plans at each stage,” said DeVries, noting that each meeting is attended by an impartial “fairness monitor” to ensure that any information provided by the hospital to one bidder is shared equally with the others.

These meetings are an important part of the development process. They allow each design-build team to receive feedback on its designs in real time and have dialogue with the hospital. The meetings also provide the opportunity to raise red flags if there are potential issues or concerns on either side of the table.

“The RFP includes over 5,500 specific and unique requirements associated with the project. Documentation is provided to the bid teams after each design presentation session outlining which requirements have been satisfactorily met, and those that have not. As you can imagine, many questions come up throughout the process. Between regular meetings with the bidders, and request for information (RFI) requests, all parties have the ability to interact with our requirements and ultimately identify solutions, even though their design is unique from others. Where warranted, we revise some of our requirements to respond to innovations and other changes that will benefit the project,” said DeVries.

“With all projects, especially those which move as fast as the WLMH rebuild is moving, it’s always better to address matters up front so that teams can progress their designs quickly and allow us to minimize what needs to be resolved in the end,” he added.

Building relationships

The regular dialogue also lets the hospital’s team get to know each of the potential design-build teams. The new hospital will take between two and three years to build. It’s important to start building relationships and understanding each team’s dynamics.

“The relationship between the design-build team and the hospital and its planning, design and conformance (PDC) team is critical for the success of any project. Building rapport starts on day one and it’s nice for both sides to get to know each other early on,” noted DeVries.

Meetings with design-build teams will continue until late October 2021. Technical (“design”) submissions for the RFP are due at the end of November 2021. RFP financial (“cost”) submissions are due early January 2022. Evaluation of each will take place and the successful proponent will be announced sometime in March 2022. Shovels are expected to hit the ground by June 2022.