Introducing Ella — & The Frustrating New St Catharines Hospital Situation

I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera in with me, so I sneaked my phone and got a picture of her when I finally met her.

Ella Nicole. My niece, born 2 months early, just as I finished getting my hair done on our wedding day.

Ella Nicole. My niece, born 2 months early, just as I finished getting my hair done on our wedding day.

She looks a lot like my dad, but she’s still very cute. 😉 Just kidding. She is adorable. I’m so glad I was able to see her yesterday, and I can’t wait til she is able to come home to her parents, and to be able to get to know her bigger sister (who isn’t all that big at all). That will be great.

For now she is in a hospital a couple of hours away because the new state-of-the-art hospital they built for Niagara is unequipped and not certified to handle her situation. Maybe they will be able to in time.

For now, it’s a maddening situation.

Disclaimer: Please do not read this as if I am whining. This has affected many people’s lives, and in a very serious way. I am scared to imagine how an emergency from the South-most point of the region will play out when all emergencies are directed to this hospital.

They moved our hospital’s maternity ward from walking distance in town to a newly-built location 25 minutes down a highway which no one without a car can get to without taking a regional bus that takes approximately an hour to two hours, depending on if you catch your original bus and then the transfer in time.

It is the least convenient situation for everyone, and virtually no one in the region wanted it except for whomever owned the land on which the new hospital was built, and the guy who now heads the health system.

Niagara has an enormous jobless rate — and not because people aren’t trying to get jobs. This means that many people are without cars, and for now, I think we have an emergency ward in town, but I’m not even sure of that. I know it is leaving us eventually, if we even have it now. No one knows what is going on where hospitals are concerned around here, except that once they get to them, it’s a frustrating situation.

On top of the location inconvenience for patients, it’s also inconvenient for the people who work for the health system. Most of the people working there were moved to this location from somewhere they were previously comfortable, forcing some people to buy cars they didn’t want, or simply to have a longer commute. There is also a lot of slack that is being picked up by some workers, for other workers who just don’t care for their jobs anymore.

So, many unhappy workers, thus a less than satisfying experience for the patients who come into contact with the ones who don’t try to conceal it.

The argument can be made that at least they have a job, and a great paying job at that for this region. I agree with that, to a degree. There’s something to be said about being moved all around the region for a hospital that isn’t impressing anyone except in terms of its size and pretty lobby.

It’s not a good situation for anyone who didn’t make large sums of money off it.

It’s not convenient for anyone outside of St. Catharines (which by the way is the northmost point of the region, not centralized at all). You cannot walk to it from anywhere, as it is in a rural location. There are no subways here. There are barely even good transit systems. Cabs are expensive. Oh, and many people here have next-to-no money.

On top of that, my niece was born with proper function in only one lung. Understandable that an old hospital such as the one located previously in our town might not be able to handle this. A brand new one should have some great technology and ensure that at least some nurses are certified for such situations though, right? After all, they are caring for the entire region now, ideally. It’s the hospital.

But no.

Ella had to be transferred to a hospital outside the region in a much larger city, a hospital that has been around longer and which actually has the facilities and certification to support a baby born in this condition. She is improving every day, thank goodness, not to mention that she is cuter every time I get to see a picture of her. But for a while there, knowing machines were keeping her afloat, it was scary to receive a text or phone call. I can’t even imagine how my sister and her boyfriend must have felt.

My family now commutes to see her every couple of days, because every day became physically and mentally exhausting, as well as expensive, very quickly. A mother cannot stay in the hospital with her baby. Nor does OHIP (our province’s healthcare insurance) cover costs incurred by families of patients who travel back and forth a total of 3 hours after working a full day and who pay $3.50 to $15 for parking each time.

Months ago, my sister might have been able to walk to see her baby at the hospital 5 blocks away. Maybe not with her special conditions, but a 25 minute ride from my parents to a hospital that had the resources would even beat a 3 hour commute at this point.

Maybe we’re asking for a lot here.

I’m saying this for everyone in Niagara, maybe even in Ontario, affected by this situation — not just my family.

Let me be clear:  

I am so glad that, thanks to incredible care given at the hospital in a land far far away, my niece has made it past the tallest hurdles. I’m happy we live in a place where we don’t have to be terrified for her. I’m overjoyed we HAVE healthcare insurance in this country, even if we take it for granted when many of our American neighbours would love to wait 8 hours in an emergency room for moderate-to-good quality of care, as long as it didn’t cost them anything.

In fact, I feel like a real douche complaining about it. For that, I apologize. This is also not a shot at anybody who works in healthcare in St Catharines. I know that job is not easy, and I know you probably did not want to move to this hospital either.

But if we’re our taxes are building a giant hospital against our will that some guy claims is state-of-the-art and a really big deal to serve the entire Niagara Region, why can’t we centralize it within the region and provide the standard of care that would be expected from a mega-hospital?

That’s all.

How have you been affected by the Niagara Health System’s choice to move local maternity wards to St Catharines? Are you satisfied with the level of care being provided, or do you think there is room for improvement?

About Nik

Writer, occasional photographer, common street juggler. I enjoy cooking, crafting, a clean house, animals, and senses of humour. Oh yeah and being the mom of my boy John.
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