thurston bghs at council270Grey Bruce Health Services CEO Lance Thurston will attend a special meeting of council on March 13, to provide further information about proposed changes that could see the consolidation of surgical services to the Owen Sound hospital, which would result in the closure of Meaford's operating room.

The municipality announced on Wednesday morning (March 8) that the special meeting will take place at the Meaford United Church on Boucher Street at 12:30 pm

At the special meeting, Council will hear a presentation from Lance Thurston, President and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services, regarding the ‘Journey Back to Balance’ for Grey Bruce Health Services. A meeting agenda package, including Mr. Thurston’s presentation, will be published on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 and made available on the municipal website,” said the municipality in Wednesday's press release. “This is an open meeting of Council and interested members of the public are encouraged to attend. Following the presentation, and according to the procedural by-law, members of Council will be able to ask questions. Grey Bruce Health Services has indicated that there will be upcoming opportunities for public input.”

Council issued a statement last week encouraging residents to continue sending petitions in support of the Meaford hospital to the Minister of Health and Long Term Care to “encourage changes to the funding formula at the provincial level”.

The statement released last week also noted council's ongoing concern about the impact of the proposed consolidation on the community.

As Mayor and Council, we are very concerned about the impact of the consolidation of surgical services in Owen Sound as proposed by Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS). The Meaford Hospital is a critical part of our community, from both the perspective of primary health care for current residents, and our projected residential growth,” read the statement. “Council passed resolution 05-05-2017 on February 6, 2017 in support of the Meaford Hospital. GBHS CEO Lance Thurston will be attending the Council meeting on March 13, 2017 at 2:00pm to provide further information on the proposed changes, and members of the public are welcome to attend.”

In November, Meaford's council was told that Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) is facing the prospect of $17 million annual deficits by 2019/20 unless significant changes are made to its cost structure. Lance Thurston, GBHS President and CEO, told council that the problems began with changes to the provincial funding formula that hit the GBHS particularly hard.

Thurston told council that of the 32 hospital corporations negatively impacted by the funding changes, five were considered to have had a significant impact, with the GBHS topping that list. In the six years prior to the changes to the provincial funding formula, the GBHS saw surpluses each year totalling $12.7 million, however this year a $4.5 million deficit is expected, and deficits of $7 million next year, $12 million in 2018/19, and $17 million in 2019/20 are being forecast by the GBHS.

In a press release issued by the GBHS last week, consolidation of surgical services was identified as having the potential for significant savings.

The press release noted that “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”.

GBHS CEO Lance Thurston suggested that if surgical services were consolidated, there would be annual operating costs of half a million dollars per year in addition to significant savings that would result from not having to replace outdated equipment.

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 Thurston.

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, in addition to most emergency surgeries, are performed in Owen Sound.

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."

A dedicated phone line (519-378-1587) 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. Background information is available at

Those wanting to forward petitions or other letters of support for changes to the provincial funding model for the GBHS can send them to:

Dr. Eric Hoskins

Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Email: or

Mail: Hepburn Block 10th Floor

80 Grosvenor St.

Toronto, ON

M7A 2C4

Photo: GBHS CEO Lance Thurston seen here during a visit to Meaford council on November 21 will be back before council on March 13 to provide council with more information about a proposal to consolidate surgical services which would result in the closure of Meaford's operating room.