As part of its ongoing efforts to balance its books over the coming years, Grey Bruce Health Services is assessing the merits of consolidating elective day surgeries, currently performed at the Markdale, Meaford and Southampton hospitals, into the surgical program at the Owen Sound Regional Hospital.

A year-long review of the GBHS surgical program by a working group of staff and physicians from across GBHS concluded that consolidation of surgery at the Owen Sound Regional Hospital will reduce operating costs significantly, avoid the need for imminent capital and equipment investments at a number of sites, ensure standardized care, and maintain quality patient outcomes.

“In addition to saving GBHS over $500,000 in annual operating costs, consolidating surgical procedures at the Owen Sound Regional Hospital will eliminate the imminent need to spend $3 million to replace outdated surgical equipment, replace instrument sterilization systems, and upgrade the air handling units and other infrastructure in the operating rooms at multiple sites across the corporation,” said Lance Thurston, President and CEO of GBHS.

A total of 12,970 elective surgeries and endoscopies are performed at GBHS annually: 78% in Owen Sound; 8% in Meaford; 5.5% in Markdale; 4.5% in Southampton; and 4.0% in Wiarton (endoscopy only). Surgery requiring an overnight stay, such as hip and knee surgery, plus most emergency surgeries, are performed in Owen Sound.

“We have the capacity in our operating rooms in Owen Sound to take on more surgery, without increasing wait times for patients,” said Dr. Mike Marriott, Chief of the Medical Staff for GBHS.

There are 28 surgeons, 9 operating rooms (OR) and a procedure room at the Owen Sound Hospital, with approximately 40-70 surgeries booked per day. The OR is staffed until 11 p.m. daily, with a back-up team on call as needed for urgent and emergency procedures. Meaford, Markdale and Southampton each have one OR.

Endoscopy procedures are performed at Markdale, Meaford, Southampton, Wiarton and Owen Sound, and will continue to be offered at these sites. There were 597 endoscopy procedures done in Meaford last year, 289 in Markdale, 324 in Southampton, and 523 in Wiarton.

The GBHS Board of Directors has directed staff to inform community stakeholders of the surgical consolidation option it is considering, and to report back to the Board in late April with a summary of stakeholder feedback. The Board will then weigh the merits of consolidation and the stakeholder comments to arrive at a decision.

“The Board will be weighing the cost advantages of service consolidation along with other potential factors, such as: impact on patients, families, and communities, the quality of care, and staffing,” said GBHS Board Chair Mark Ostland.

The review of surgical services is only one of many initiatives GBHS is pursuing to return to a balanced financial position. “We are making many smaller process changes, which, when combined, will yield upwards of $3 million in annual savings,” said Thurston. “This is significant, but does not solve our budget problem and we will still be short $3-$5 million next year.”

“While these and future efforts demonstrate our commitment to balancing our budget, we cannot close the budget shortfall completely without changes to the provincial funding formula to account for the multi-site nature of our organization and the challenges of serving a large and diverse rural area.”

Further work is being done to assess opportunities for reducing costs and enhancing revenues. The Board of Directors is committed to ensuring that any changes improve the patient experience, contribute to improving the health of the residents of Grey Bruce, and reduce the per capita cost of hospital based care.

A dedicated phone line and email have been set up for those interested in commenting on the consolidation of surgical services, or for anyone with suggestions for reducing the deficit while maintaining quality care for all communities served by GBHS. Click for background information.

Phone: 519-378-1587

Media contact: Mary Margaret Crapper, Chief, Communications & Public Affairs, Grey Bruce Health Services, 519-376-2121 Ext. 2806,