The end of 2023 marks a special milestone at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH): the 10-year anniversary of the amalgamation with Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).
The strength of this partnership over the past decade has been pivotal in elevating health care for the community of West Niagara and across the surrounding region. While our collaboration dates back more than 25 years, amalgamation has allowed us to grow stronger and more resilient together. It has also made for a promising future of care that will serve many generations to come.
Together, we have achieved many significant advancements to WLMH to better serve our community. A few highlights over the last 10 years include:
The expansion of critical services to bring care closer to home for West Niagara. WLMH has considerably expanded its programs and services to address local and regional health priorities. These expansions include our surgical program, which has evolved from a single-surgeon program to a multi-specialty team. Our patients now also have access to life-changing and life-saving testing and imaging, including endoscopies, mammograms and the site’s first-ever Computed Tomography (CT) scanner.
More than $10M of investment in facility upgrades and modernization. The past decade has seen significant community support and focused investment to modernize the existing WLMH and the systems and equipment our staff use daily. Some of these enhancements include the addition of new medical equipment; the renovation of various areas, most notably the emergency and obstetrics departments; and the implementation of a modernized patient information system to ensure full-integration across HHS sites.
Planning and building the new hospital. The past 12 months have produced tremendous progress toward rebuilding WLMH. Construction remains on track and the new hospital is slated to open in mid-2025. Most recently, we celebrated an important construction milestone with the Foundation, gathering friends and supporters to sign the final beam needed in the building’s framework.
Your support has helped make these advancements possible. Community generosity over the past decade has allowed us to build the future of health care we have all dreamed of in West Niagara. For this, we are very grateful.
We have made great strides in the first decade together, and this is just beginning of our journey. Health care will continue to evolve; our patients’ needs will change and together, we will continue to pursue the mission of providing the best care for all.
On behalf of HHS, we wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday season. We look forward to more progress in 2024.
Rob MacIsaac President & CEO Hamilton Health Sciences
Leslie Gillies VP, Nursing, Practice & Education, & Community Health, & Executive Site Lead, WLMH Hamilton Health Sciences
WLMH Foundation celebrates new hospital with beam-signing event
Dr. Joan Bellaire figures she signs her name at least 1,000 times a year for work. But on Nov. 23, her signature felt extra special because it was signed on the last beam needed to build the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH).
“It was an honour to put my name on the beam,” says Bellaire, medical director for WLMH.
“This hospital has been the heart of our community for many years. It was special to see the community come together to leave their mark on the hospital that will serve the people of West Niagara for many decades to come.”
A beam-signing ceremony is a tradition in the construction industry marking a milestone in the construction process — the placement of the final steel beam needed to complete a building’s framework. Before the beam is placed, it’s signed by the project’s team members and supporters.
“It’s amazing to think that by signing the beam I am a part of WLMH’s history and future at the same time.” — Doris Franklin, WLMH registered respiratory therapist.
With construction of the new WLMH rapidly progressing, the project finally embarked on this exciting milestone, calling for the WLMH Foundation to gather supporters and friends to sign their name on the beam before it was finally hoisted.
“It has been an honour working with the most generous and dedicated community over the past 24 years as we worked towards this goal,” says Pamela Ellens, CEO of WLMH Foundation. “It is really special to now see the construction of the new hospital.”
A celebration of community
The celebration kicked off with a ceremony attended by staff, partners and supporters, including EllisDon, Infrastructure Ontario, and community leaders such as Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan, West Lincoln Mayor Cheryl Ganann, MP Dean Allison, Foundation Chair Kevin Antonides, and Take it to the Finish Line Campaign Chair Andrew Smith.
Community and staff members were invited to drop by on Nov. 23 and 24 to add their names to the beam. Doris Franklin, who has served as a registered respiratory therapist at WLMH since 2003, was among the many staff members and physicians who took part.
“What an exciting day,” says Franklin. “It’s been a long-time coming. This is something we’ve been dreaming about since I began working at the hospital. It’s amazing to think that by signing the beam I am a part of WLMH’s history and future at the same time.
I’ll forever cherish the many amazing memories made in the original WLMH, but I look forward to continuing my career and providing care to my community in our new hospital.”
With support from generous donors and surrounding municipalities that raised $50-million to meet provincial funding requirements, the project broke ground in April 2022 and is slated to open in mid-2025.
Longtime staff member shares lifetime connection to WLMH
For Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) booking clerk Robyn Morrison, life is all about connections. Connections to family. Connections to community. And connections to her local hospital in Grimsby.
Morrison is a booking clerk at HHS West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH), where she was born 47 years ago, adopted privately by a local couple and raised in the Vineland, Grimsby and Beamsville areas. “We brought her home when she was about five days old,” says Morrison’s father David Cuthill, a retired Mohawk College English teacher. “It was one of the most exciting moments of our lives.”
A special place
“I have wonderful co-workers and when I go to work it’s like seeing family.” — Robyn Morrison, booking clerk.
With the adoption pending, Cuthill asked his Mohawk students to suggest baby names. “I told my students that we were in the middle of adopting a baby girl, and our class had a naming contest,” says Cuthill. “One of the students suggested the name Robyn. It seemed fitting to name this little baby after a tiny bird.”
Robyn Morrison with her father David Cuthill and her sons Brock and Cameron.
Morrison’s parents told her at a young age that she was adopted. They also let her know that WLMH was a very special place, because she was born there.
“Growing up, Robyn was always fascinated with the hospital and her connection to it,” says Cuthill. “Connections have always been very important to her.”
Sights set on WLMH
Morrison went on to study office administration at Mohawk College, where her dad worked, graduating with Dean’s Honours. Her first job was in the private sector, but she had her sights set on working in health care, specifically at WLMH.
“I would apply to the West Lincoln hospital every two weeks because I wanted to work there so badly,” says Morrison. “I finally got a job interview and accepted a position there. That was 16 years ago and I still love working at West Lincoln hospital. I have wonderful co-workers and when I go to work it’s like seeing family.”
Morrison started her WLMH career as a booking clerk in diagnostic imaging, then worked as a business clerk for the emergency department before returning to diagnostic imaging as a booking clerk. Her youngest son volunteers at the hospital’s coffee shop.
“There’s such a connection for my family here,” says Morrison. “West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is a huge part of my life story.”
‘It’s a fabulous opportunity’ says WLMH volunteer patient advisor
Providing health care is the core business of hospitals. It is good practice that patients – the recipients of that care – are involved in planning and quality improvement. More and more, patients across Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) are taking part in how care is designed and delivered.
“Patients and families need to be at the table,” said Dawn Sidenberg, manager of patient experience at HHS. “Everything we do impacts the patient or their family. So, if it impacts them, shouldn’t they be included in the process to improve what we do?”
The most direct way patients get involved is by becoming a Patient and Family Advisor with the hospital. Advisors are volunteers who take part in a diverse range opportunities across the hospital system, bringing their lived experience as a patient or family member of a patient and building that into plans, policies and processes aiming to improve future patient care and experience.
“Our advisors have a wide range of experiences and are truly valued. The value is reflected in the input we have received and implemented into projects to date,” said Sidenberg.
At West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH), advisors are needed across the site, but have the unique opportunity of helping design care in the existing hospital, while also planning for the new one being built.
“We’re at a critical point in the evolution of this site,” said Catherine Duffin, director of community programs and site administrator at WLMH. “We have the opportunity to look at how care is currently provided while also asking what kind of environment we want to create in the new hospital. Are processes working? What should stay the same and what could change? We need to integrate families into these discussions so when we open the doors on the new hospital, it’s the best possible experience for everyone.”
Patient voices are already being actively heard in this work. Ellen Marginson spent much of her career as a social worker in the hospital environment and was encouraged to sign up to become a patient and family advisor by a family member.
“I was working at McMaster Children’s Hospital when the new pediatric emergency department was being constructed, so I got to see the process as an employee. Being a member of the community is a different but equally important way to approach this project which will impact the community for many years,” said Marginson, who is part of the operational readiness planning group for the new hospital.
No professional health care experience is required to become a patient advisor, just recent experience as a patient or a family member of a patient at an HHS site. Marginson encourages others in the community to step forward and raise their voice.
“As a member of the community, I think it’s a fabulous opportunity to have a say in how our local hospital grows and how it functions. When I speak to others, I say that ‘this is our time.’ Once the hospital is built, the opportunity won’t always be there. This is our opportunity to have a say.”
The demand for patient and family advisors is strong across HHS. As volunteers, advisors determine what time commitment makes sense and what type of opportunities interest them. For those who want more involvement, advisors can take part in established committees. An example being the family council at McMaster Children’s Hospital which meets regularly to discuss and advise on programming and potential changes affecting pediatric care. Advisors have also been embedded into time-limited capital projects, like the stem cell therapy unit expansion at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre which opened in 2020. Many opportunities also exist on a casual basis, like reviewing and editing patient information materials for readability or looking at design and placement of signage at hospital sites. All input is valued and respected
Increasingly, HHS is seeing great success bringing patient advisors into early phase project design. A concept called “co-design.”
“Co-design is when a patient advisor is paired up with a clinical team looking to address an operational challenge. They are fully embedded with the team from the beginning, figuring out the challenges and putting a plan in place to create a change or a solution together. These usually start as pilot projects for a certain period of time and decisions are made about making them permanent. Our experience shows that patient advisors working in this collaborative way is absolutely instrumental toward creating a great outcome,” said Sidenberg.
A recent success story is the essential care partner program. During the pandemic, visitors were restricted for periods of time to reduce the number of people in the hospital. This naturally impacted patients’ experience while in hospital care. A project team, including a patient advisor, was assembled and a framework for identifying essential care partners was designed. It is now being piloted on two hospital units (one at Juravinski site, one at Hamilton General site) with promising results.
“If we only come at our work from one perspective – the provider perspective – we’re missing a vital piece. Our care providers are experts and great at what they do. Patients are experts, too,” said Sidenberg.
Anyone interested in becoming a patient and family advisor can find more information on HHS’ website or they can contact the Office of Patient Experience at email@example.com.
So much has happened since the end of last April when hospital and community members gathered at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) to break ground on the long-awaited new hospital.
“It’s been a busy year,” said Kelly Campbell, vice-president corporate services and capital development at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). “From the moment the contract with our build partner (EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare) was signed, crews started working to prepare the site for construction. The site has been bustling with activity every day since.”
The site required a number of projects to be completed prior to construction starting, including the relocation and demolition of a few existing structures. Read more about all of the site early works here.
With a relatively blank canvas to build on, activity ramped up in the early fall. More and more trades reported to the site daily, working on the future build and finalizing access routes for construction vehicles while updating some operational elements of the existing hospital, like the existing emergency department ramp. The year ended off with the tower crane installation.
“WLMH is a pretty tight site which can create challenges to maintain hospital operations while construction is going on. Lots of planning, energy and attention to detail has been required to ensure that first and foremost, patients and patient transport have uninterrupted access to the existing hospital,” said Campbell.
Exhibits and milestones
The project has continued to pick up steam in 2023. In March, site staff and physicians got a sneak peek at new spaces in the future hospital through a time-limited room mock up exhibit.
“The high fidelity mock ups were a great opportunity for the people who will be working in the new hospital to get a sense of the design and layouts. It will have a completely different look and feel from the existing hospital which people are used to, so it helps everyone visualize what it will be like,” said Campbell.
Earlier this month, the project crossed another important progress marker with the pouring of the first slab. Concrete columns now outline the new building as the hospital is starting to take shape.
Transition planning underway
It may or may not come as a surprise that moving an entire hospital (and patients) into a new building takes considerable planning. This process, commonly known as “operational readiness” in the health sector, involves looking at every piece of hospital operations, from what equipment needs to move and when, to scheduling appointments in the new building.
“Operational readiness is really thinking about how we are going to live and function in the new building,” says Jennifer Robinson, project manager at HHS leading operational planning. “What does the staffing look like, patient flow and day-to-day operations? Which existing policies and processes will need to change? That all gets organized now so as we get closer to move-in, we have a solid plan for a seamless transition from the old building to the new one.”
A committee has been established to guide this work, made up of hospital experts from many clinical and administrative specialties. The focus of this process will change as the project gets closer and closer to opening the doors on the new hospital.
“One year from now – which will be about one year from occupancy – we will really start focusing on transition, like ramping up and ramping down and in what sequence. For example, once we have the all clear to move in, Security and Facilities teams will move in first to set up safety procedures and infrastructure. Our detailed planning will drill into when other support services move in; all in preparation to support the patient move-in day and balance patient services on site,“said Robinson.
Each year at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) feels more momentous than the last. This is worth celebrating, considering all that has happened during the past few years.
It is no secret that hospitals everywhere are facing incredible challenges, particularly related to staffing shortages made worse by three difficult years navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this setback, staff and physicians across Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), including WLMH, continue to move major projects forward and meet the needs of the communities we serve.
There is a long list of milestones arising from 2022:
• Ground is broken on the new hospital. Decades of community and hospital advocacy, and years of planning led to a moment this fall when the soil officially turned and excavation commenced. That long-awaited symbol of progress has finally arrived. • Babies are once again gracing the halls of WLMH after a temporary program hiatus. The maternal service’s return required many helping hands from inside and outside the hospital, but it is now better set up for long-term growth and success. The return brought many familiar faces back to the site and will include the largest team of obstetricians and gynecologists in the program’s history. • Exponential growth continues in the site’s day surgery program. The innovative Surgeon of the Week initiative really hit its stride this year, bringing a team of specialists from across HHS to see patients and provide a wide range of specialty procedures at WLMH. Operating rooms at WLMH are currently running at 100 per cent of pre-pandemic surgical activity. • HHS launched the largest transformational initiative in the hospital’s history, implementing our new digital health information system. Through its app, called MyChart, patients have more control than ever in managing their appointments, communicating with care providers and accessing their medical history.
All of these are great achievements that can stand on their own. However, possibly the most momentous milestone at WLMH this year took place outside of the hospital.
It happened in the homes and businesses and recreation centres and parks and festivals and places of worship where members of the community came together and made the critical decision to financially support the new hospital. The Take It To The Finish campaign – led by the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Foundation and its campaign team – achieved the fundraising target needed to support a rebuilt WLMH. Significant commitments from municipal and regional government partners (as well as past donations) got the ball rolling, and the community took it across the finish line.
Hospitals need community support, now more than ever. Fundraising is a vital lifeline that provides the money needed for essential medical equipment, tools and devices, as well as to build brand new, state-of-the-art facilities. Community generosity towards WLMH has always been boundless, and it has never been more visible than at this moment in time.
Thank you to everyone who continues to give and make a difference in patients’ lives. Wishing you and your loved ones a safe, happy and healthy holiday season, with many more milestones to come in 2023.
Rob MacIsaac President and CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences
Leslie Gillies VP, Community Medicine & Population Health, Interprofessional Practice/Development & Clinical Education, & WLMH Exec. Site Lead, Hamilton Health Sciences
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Please note the following update on the status of scheduled care and obstetrical services at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks on C-Ward and ICU at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH), obstetrical services will be temporarily redirected to Niagara Health, starting Tuesday, December 14 at 7:00 am.
The earliest the outbreaks can be declared over is December 26, pending no new cases are confirmed in connection with these outbreaks. Once declared over, the decision will be made as to when obstetrical services will resume at WLMH.
The decision to temporarily redirect was not made lightly. The two units in outbreak combine for approximately 50 per cent of available beds at the site. In order to keep the Emergency Department functioning and supporting the community, while not causing further delay to surgeries and adding to the provincial backlog, the temporary redirect was the only remaining option. During this period, the obstetrical unit will be temporarily used for medical patient admissions.
For families expecting to deliver at WLMH during this time, please contact Angela Leslie at 905-945-2253 ext 11436, visit wlmh.ca or speak with your obstetrical care provider for further information. We appreciate your understanding as we work to keep all patients in our care safe.
As always, we thank our staff, physicians and partners at Niagara Health for their support.