On Thursday, April 20, North York General Hospital (NYGH) hosted a telephone town hall to discuss health care needs in the Branson area. Close to 20,000 randomly-selected residents in the Branson community were contacted, with 3,645 residents participating for the full hour. President and CEO Dr. Tim Rutledge, Chief of Family and Community Medicine, Dr. David Eisen and Director of Emergency Services and Mental Health, Sandy Marangos, were on hand to answer questions and gather feedback from the community.
For those community members who were unable to attend, you can find a brief summary of the event's questions and answers as well as those left in our voicemail (for those callers we could not get to in the allotted time). Please note that several questions were duplications so we have chosen one as representation.
Find more information about the Branson Ambulatory Care Centre transition.
Town hall at a glance
- All questions during the event were posed live (15 in the time allotted); 18 follow-up questions were left in the town hall voicemail to be addressed
- 62% of callers responding to the poll were aware of health care options in the community
- 80% had accessed the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency
- 87% found the telephone town hall helpful in learning about the Branson Ambulatory Care Centre
Questions and answers
What is the rationale behind closing Branson Ambulatory Care Centre?
Like the General site, buildings of this vintage require ongoing investment to upgrade infrastructure and meet new standards. Given that we do not own this building, and Advent Corporation (which does own the building) has extensive redevelopment plans for the site, it would not be prudent for us to use public dollars to continue to invest in this building. In addition, costs to operate the building including heat, hydro and upkeep are extremely high, especially when we use so little of the space. We have also experienced a number of service disruptions as a result of infrastructure failure over the past two years. In short, it will simply cost too much to stay.
A primary concern in coming to this decision was to ensure the residents of the local community have the health care services they need. In order to ascertain whether our services met the needs of the Branson community, North York General conducted a telephone survey within the catchment area. Through the survey, we learned that the hospital's General site was the health care facility most visited among the catchment residents. Further, the majority of patients who visit the specialized clinics at the Branson Ambulatory Care Centre such as the Gale and Graham Wright Prostate Centre and the Cataract High Volume Centre do not reside in the catchment area. The Branson Ambulatory Care Centre is therefore not the best location for regional programs and services.
When the lease is up for Branson, what will happen to its programs and services?
Work is underway over the next several months to determine the most appropriate and accessible locations to meet the needs of patients and families.
In the short term, you will see the following changes:
- As of June 1, 2017, we will be closing the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) and transitioning our staff to the General site's Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency. To facilitate this, we will augment resources provided in the Emergency Department's Green Zone, the area that treats less serious conditions such as soft tissue injuries and fractures. We know there are a number of walk-in clinics in the area and the hospital is working with local family physicians to improve access.
- Transfer of the Total Joint Assessment Centre (TJAC) to the General site in June 2017. TJAC will move into vacant space on 4 North on a temporary basis as further renovations are planned.
- Branson General Radiology services (general x-rays), which primarily supported the UCC and TJAC, is transitioning as of June 1, 2017. All walk-in patients for General Radiology can go to the General site. All medical imaging services (Ultrasound, Mammography, the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), and Bone Mineral Densitometry) currently operating at Branson will continue with a full complement of services until further notice.Presently, there is extensive planning taking place pertaining to location options for transitioning these services.
Will this impact the General site's Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency?
It makes sense to transition the care offered at the Urgent Care Centre to our Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency. To do so, we will augment resources provided in the Emergency Department's Green Zone – the area that treats less serious conditions such as soft tissue injuries and fractures. Analysis on expected volumes is manageable with some minor adjustments. We will monitor all performance measures to ensure we continue to meet our targets and provide high quality care to our patients.
Why is North York General Hospital transitioning the Urgent Care Clinic as soon as June 1?
Once we determine what the right thing to do for patient care is – it is our responsibility to do that in a timely manner. Key factors for the timing include:
- Patient transfers from the Urgent Care Centre to the General site have been steadily increasing while UCC patient volumes have been steadily decreasing over the years.
- Our Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency was renovated last year and the newly-redesigned space enables improved patient flow and enhanced care environments to provide better patient- and family-centred care.
- By transitioning in the summer, we will be ready well advance for the upcoming fall flu season – the time during which we see the highest patient volumes.
Will there be an impact on the Humber River Regional Hospital with the closure of the Branson Ambulatory Care Centre? Both sites are in close proximity and the have similar triage fast track emergency departments – will these services be streamlined?
We have engaged the Humber River Regional Hospital in our transition plans and will continue to keep them informed so they can best plan for any potential impact.
Has there been any thought to a wait-time app across hospitals so people can strategically choose which site to visit based on time?
We are not aware of a wait-time app for all hospitals in the areas. It is certainly an interesting system-wide idea that we will share with the Local Health Integration Network for consideration.
What's going to happen to the Branson building?
NYGH is appreciative of the lease arrangement we have had with Advent. We understand they are committed to continuing to provide a venue for care and partnering with quality health care service providers as they develop their campus into a senior's living and care community.
What is being done to ensure family care physicians and walk-in clinic wait times and service levels are not affected as a result of the service transition? Is there any way to improve communications between walk-in clinics and family doctors?
We know 99% of patients who visit our Urgent Care Centre have family physicians. North York General has one of the largest complements of family physicians in a Canadian hospital, with over 300 physicians on staff and we are using this to the benefit of our entire neighbourhood. A strong link between your family doctor and North York General Hospital is the best way to guarantee seamless access to the care you need when you need it. We have formed a task force of family doctors in the Branson neighborhood and are working with them to improve access to care. The Local Health Integration Network has also identified improved access to primary care as an important focus.
What is being done to plan for population increases in the area and how will NYGH ensure service levels meet the growing demand?
As stated above, we are working with our complement of family physicians, as well as planning with our community health providers, to transform and enhance the care our patients receive and create an even better patient experience for diverse communities in the future. Our priority is to determine the best and most strategic location for all services and programs at Branson now and in the future. It's important to note that we have submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Health to construct a future NYGH ambulatory building closer to the General site, which will allow us to continue to provide exceptional care in the best possible care environments.
When will the community get additional information on future plans for local health care, specifically related to the Branson closure? Where should the community go to seek out this information?
Information on local health care options is widely available. The Local Health Integrated Networks have a database online: http://www.centralhealthline.ca/. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has a searchable site called Health Care Options https://www.ontario.ca/locations/health/, which also has a find a family doctor option. You can also call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 for health care information or the Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600. In case of emergency always call 911. Visit our Changes at Branson section for the latest information.
What is being done to increase accessibility for seniors or physically disabled now that services are moving away from the area?
There are many health care partners in the Branson area that provide a variety of services including after-hours care. For those unable to access those services, home and community services support people of all ages who require care in their home, at school or in the community. Get more information on the Ontario Government website.
As mentioned above, we know 99% of patients who visit our Urgent Care Centre have family physicians. North York General has one of the largest complements of family physicians in a Canadian hospital, with over 300 physicians on staff and we are using this to the benefit of our entire neighbourhood. A strong link between your family doctor and North York General Hospital is the best way to guarantee seamless access to the care you need when you need it. We are working with family doctors to improve access to care.
When did NYGH first become aware that the Branson division was not going to renew its lease in 2019? Was the public informed in a timely manner after NYGH decided not to renew the lease?
As mentioned above, the hospital has spent months, if not years, reviewing the care needs of the Branson community. We've analyzed data on the patients accessing those services and spoke with many in telephone and point of care surveys. On March 1, we were able to make a more formal announcement to our community members via our website – the same day as we informed all of the hospital's staff, physicians and volunteers.
How will you manage additional parking at the General site?
We are currently exploring different options related to parking, including better use of current parking spaces at 4001 and 4000 Leslie Street, improving the flow out of the parking lots to avoid congestion and improving the experience for our visitors. We are confident we will be able to accommodate additional parking requirements.