Windsor and Essex County residents are in possession of a lot of misconceptions regarding the proposal for the new hospital. Allowing that misinformation to fester works only to the advantage of those who are pushing for the construction of the so-called mega-hospital in a soybean field on the periphery of the city.
First and foremost amongst the misinformation is the notion that the plan to build a new hospital is a done deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The province has not budgeted for the project, nor has there been any inclination that the Liberals will give the project the go-ahead.
Another bit of fluff that has been circulating is that if we don’t jump on the bandwagon and fully embrace the new hospital, then the province will send the money elsewhere. Again, not true.
Communities across the province have been proceeding with new hospitals for the past number of years. And where controversy arises, like the location selected, the municipalities and residents have been included in the decision-making process, and have even helped to sway the chosen locale.
A disagreement regarding the location of the hospital will not cause the government to cancel a project that hasn’t yet been approved. And though that approval is yet to come, the Ministry of Health has said that the funding will not be given to another community.
Patients will continue to travel to London and Toronto for procedures. The proposed hospital will have fewer beds and services will be discontinued from what is currently provided to the region. That follows from the fact that the existing Windsor hospitals, both the Ouellette and Met campuses, will be demolished.
Met Campus has recently undergone major renovations to the tune of $101 million. The state of the art operating rooms, suites, and cancer care centre will be destroyed and the property will be returned to greenfield condition as part of a land swap deal with the city of Windsor. That also goes for the new Ronald McDonald House being built inside Met Hospital.
In exchange, WRH will obtain the former Grace Hospital site on University Avenue for the construction of a limited urgent care facility akin to a glorified clinic. Patients will still have to travel to the proposed hospital if they become ill when the urgent care site is closed. Neither will the centre accept deliveries by ambulance.
In reality, a new urgent care facility should be constructed closer to Essex County residents instead of making them drive to the proposed location. Urgent care facilities are needed in Amherstburg and Lakeshore and would better reflect the population shift being experienced.
After tearing down the Ouellette Campus, it will become a chronic disease and mental health facility.
Also being torn down will be the new regional cancer center at Met Campus. This service will be incorporated into the greenfield hospital that is being proposed, but not yet approved.
Some residents believe that the new hospital location was chosen as the best place to build a hospital. This is patently false. The site was selected only from properties submitted by land owners and was not a studied determination of the best site for medical facilities.
In fact, the location of a hospital in a greenfield on the edge of the city is in direct conflict with Windsor’s own strategic vision because of reducing accessibility, increasing resident liability, and hollowing out other centres as a result of the decision.
Even then, the requirement for the construction of all infrastructure to service the acreage and the loss of arable land under planting makes the choice of the site even more concerning and raises costs to taxpayers.
That cost is already being born by Windsor residents who are now paying increased property taxes imposed by City Council to raise the funds needed to build the hospital infrastructure. Even without approval to build the new hospital from the provincial government, taxpayers are already feeling the out of pocket costs because of council’s decision. As much as $500 million could be needed from residents, which doesn’t include increased spending for Transit Windsor and road maintenance.
The movement forward of the location selection was done with severely limited public input. There still isn’t any method by which residents can make their thoughts known about the hospital project. When taxpayers do voice their concerns via the few private forums, they are met by derision from members of the site selection committee or their hangers-on.
The matter facing residents isn’t whether the hospital should be built or not. The overwhelming majority support the construction of a new hospital, but only in a location that makes sense in all regards for those it will serve and at an affordable cost to taxpayers.