Thirty years ago, Brenda Flaherty, Executive Vice President of clinical operations, began her career as an Emergency Department nurse
Changes at McMaster aimed at providing the best health care possible
Thirty years ago, I began my career as a newly graduated nurse working in the Emergency Department at Henderson General Hospital. I was young and green and it was a hectic and sometimes scary place. But I was excited to be part of a dedicated team of doctors, nurses and other caregivers.
After a couple of weeks in the ER, I knew I had found my place in life. The hospital became my second home. I have remained at Hamilton Health Sciences ever since — now over three decades — and have always been inspired by the people around me who provide the best care possible, no matter how challenging the circumstances.
Early next month, Hamilton Health Sciences will undergo one of the biggest changes in its long life. At times, this change will be difficult — for staff, patients and the public — but I know it is the best course for our city’s hospitals.
I have witnessed an extraordinary evolution in hospital care over the years. Here in Hamilton, our hospitals once functioned very independently, each providing a full range of care for all types of illnesses and injuries. Over time, as medicine has advanced, and the services we offer have become more sophisticated, our hospitals have developed different areas of expertise.
For example, Hamilton General Hospital, where I worked for many years as a vice-president, has become the regional centre for trauma, stroke and cardiac care. Patients from Niagara to Fergus, and from Simcoe to Oakville are rushed to the General for life-saving, life-enhancing care that is available nowhere else in south-central Ontario. The other Hamilton Health Sciences hospitals, and St. Joseph’s Healthcare, have different areas of specialization. We have worked together to avoid duplication and to invest our resources most effectively.
Why have we done this? To meet rising expectations and to ensure Hamilton has the best care to offer. Whether we are patients or health care providers, we all want the standard of care in this community to be excellent.
It’s out of a deep commitment to quality that we are further realigning our services at Hamilton Health Sciences. On April 4, we will be moving about 100 adult inpatient beds — with the exception of obstetrics and gynecology — to Juravinski Hospital, Hamilton General and St. Joseph’s Healthcare. By doing this, we are able to bring together, in fewer locations, not only the beds and patients, but also the talented staff and sophisticated technology we need to care for those patients. With increasing demands on both our human and technological resources, this just makes sense. We’ll still have the same number of adult beds in Hamilton, but they’ll be in fewer locations.
How will it work? Adult programs will remain at McMaster, with a focus on outpatient care and obstetrics and gynecology. Outpatient care includes a wide range of specialized clinics as well as same-day surgery. McMaster will also continue be the home of this region’s high-risk obstetrical program. A new intensive-care unit and assessment area will open on April 4, specifically to ensure that mothers who run into difficulty during labour get the critical care they need.
Specialized pediatrics is another of our regional referral programs and the children in this area — all 600,000 of them — deserve their own emergency department. So, on April 4, the McMaster ER transitions to caring for children 17-and-under only. As a city that aspires to be the best place to raise a child, the expansion and improvement of services at McMaster Children’s Hospital is, quite simply, the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, adults will be able to continue using the three other emergency departments in Hamilton — at Hamilton General, Juravinski Hospital and St. Joseph’s Healthcare on Charlton Avenue. In addition, on April 4, we are opening a new urgent-care centre for patients of all ages who have non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries. It will be located on Main Street West, just west of the 403.
What I would like to emphasize is that, in an emergency, you should call 911. I know from personal experience that we have a great ambulance system in Hamilton, and paramedics who are well trained and highly capable. The paramedics will get you where you need to go, fast — and on the way, they’ll start providing care that may well save your life.
April 4 will be an important day for Hamilton Health Sciences and our community. Our staff and physicians have worked very hard for many months to ensure these changes go smoothly. The result will be a more organized, more efficient hospital system. Ultimately, our goal is to create sustainable health care — care that will continue without compromise despite increasing demands and pressures.
As a nurse and hospital administrator, I can assure everyone that we are committed to providing the best care for all. I have lived in this community all my life and just like you, I want outstanding health care for my family, my friends, my colleagues and all of us.
We ask for your support during this time of change. Caring for you, now and in the future, is what we’re all about.
Brenda Flaherty is executive vice-president, clinical operations, Hamilton Health Sciences.