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Woods’ responds to questions over Emo hospital closure

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The CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc. thoroughly outlined its plan for renovations at Emo hospital at a two-hour meeting last night that attracted about 135 residents.

“I think it went over reasonably well,” said Wayne Woods. “People were looking for a meaning behind the renovations, and that’s what they got.”

After promoting some understanding of the $2.5-million renovation situation, Woods felt things should “cool off” a bit after coming under fire last month when the temporary closure of the hospital was first announced.

But a couple of vocal residents remain concerned about the closure, which Woods noted was “99.9 percent sure” to go ahead.

“Yes, he was informative, but it doesn’t matter now does it? The renovation project is a foregone conclusion,” said Ed Carlson.

“Residents’ thoughts or feelings don’t seem to make much of a difference when the decision to fully close the hospital and have residents move is all for the sake of a dollar,” he charged.

Nurse Helen Cates remains concerned about the patients, who will have to be moved to alternate facilities during the six months of renovations.

“They never addressed trauma to the patients. Moving from your surroundings can be a real shock,” she stressed.

Last night’s presentation outlined what renovations will happen at the Emo hospital, as well as the upcoming one at La Verendrye in Fort Frances. It also answered some 20 questions previously submitted to the Riverside board.

Perhaps the most sought after answer was to the question, “Who made the decision to close the hospital to complete renovations rather than completing the project in stages?”

“The decision was made based on all known factors, such as timing, pricing, commitment to patients and staff, consultant recommendations, and grant requirements,” said Woods.

“One of the aims is to expedite construction and complete it as quickly a possible with costs as close to budget as possible,” he added.

“Our primary concern is the safety and comfort of the patients. The entire building will be gutted and renovated. This will cause excessive noise, vibration, and dust.

“The possibility of releasing contaminants into the air that can’t be contained increases the risk of infectious respiratory problems,” Woods added, noting heat, light, power, and water also would be periodically disrupted.

Woods noted a phase-in approach would take nine-12 months, and cost up to an extra $130,000, while total access would merely take six months.

Another prime question was what would happen to staff while the hospital is closed for renovations?

“Our objective, with the co-operation of the unions, is to use as many staff as possible at our different locations. This is not a guarantee that all staff would have complete jobs for the duration,” said Woods.

“It is our intent that in the event of temporary layoffs, staff would be kept whole for benefits and insurance, and these will be with the concurrence of their bargaining units,” he explained.

Dr. Phillip Whatley spoke up for the doctors currently practising in Emo.

“We will have a place to work. The doctors here are under contract with the Ministry of Health to provide health care services 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, and we will continue to be available weekends as a service to the community,” he noted.

Woods also reiterated that long-term care patients will return to Emo hospital once renovations are completed in December, and that Riverside has arranged for a utilization co-ordinator to assist families with moving long-term care patients to either Rainycrest or La Verendrye.

Woods summed up his stance on the renovation project as a positive one—and one that should be shared by Emo.

“We’re lucky here. We have an opportunity to redevelop our facilities and bring them up to standard. This is not a new building, and it never will be.

“On the outside, after the renovations, you’ll notice some changes, like new windows, and roof, but the bricks are the same. It’s when you get on the inside you’ll notice the big difference,” he said.

“Emo is the future of health care for us. I can tell you that 10, 20 years in the future, some of us are going to need long-term care and the renovations are an investment into that future,” Woods concluded.

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