Bud­get cash could go to a new hospi­tal in Hamil­ton

Lots of pos­si­bil­i­ties for pro­vin­cial money

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNA FRKETICH

A new hospi­tal is on the ta­ble here as Hamil­ton Health Sciences de­cides what do with its share of $9 bil­lion in cap­i­tal cash from the prov­ince.

HHS was one of five hos­pi­tals across On­tario iden­ti­fied in the 2017 bud­get as be­ing newly ap­proved for a ma­jor rede­vel­op­ment project. It’s not known how much each hospi­tal will get.

“The prov­ince is rec­og­niz­ing that Hamil­ton Health Sciences has sig­nif­i­cant rede­vel­op­ment needs,” said CEO Rob MacIsaac. “They’ve in­di­cated a com­mit­ment in the bud­get to work with us to be­gin to re­al­ize the plan. Nei­ther they nor we are com­mit­ting to spe­cific projects.”

MacIsaac ex­pects HHS will de­cide by the end of the cal­en­dar year what parts of its 20-year plan will get done first and start ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Min­istry of Health.

Its vi­sion calls for a new women’s and chil­dren’s hospi­tal to be built near Hamil­ton Gen­eral and be­come part of its cam­pus. HHS would stop op­er­at­ing St. Peter’s Hospi­tal and McMaster Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre (MUMC) and fo­cus care at Hamil­ton Gen­eral and Ju­ravin­ski Hospi­tal and Can­cer Cen­tre.

Out­dated parts of the down­town and Moun­tain hos­pi­tals would be re­de­vel­oped.

In ad­di­tion, Grimsby’s West Lin­coln Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal would be re­built and ex­panded to take on a sub­stan­tial por­tion of day surgery cur­rently done in Hamil­ton.

A big part of the plan is cre­at­ing com­mu­nity clin­ics or other ways to ac­cess ser­vices in neigh­bour­hoods.

“The whole thing will not hap­pen to­gether,” said MacIsaac. “We’re more likely to go in stages. There will have to be some work done on pri­or­i­tiz­ing what projects go first.”

Ev­ery­thing is cur­rently on the ta­ble from the plan, which was ap­proved by the board nearly one year ago and sup­ported by the Hamil­ton Ni­a­gara Haldimand Brant Lo­cal Health In­te­gra­tion Net­work (LHIN).

Mayor Fred Eisen­berger said he wants to see Hamil­ton’s cur­rent hos­pi­tals mod­ern­ized first.

“My sense of it is that we still have some ag­ing parts of our fa­cil­i­ties at The Gen­eral and Ju­ravin­ski that are go­ing back to the 1930s, so it could use some re­newal and up­grad­ing,” he said. “I think you would prob­a­bly want to fix first what you have and get that into cur­rent 21st cen­tury stan­dards.”

He would like to see an ur­gent care cen­tre built on West Moun­tain as one of the new com­mu­nity clin­ics.

“It’s an ac­cess point that is far less ex­pen­sive than hous­ing peo­ple in a hospi­tal and takes the pres­sure off the emer­gency rooms through­out the city, which is re­ally a pinch point in terms of health care,” he said. “I think that would be help­ful.”

He’s un­de­cided on whether Hamil­ton needs a new hospi­tal, par­tic­u­larly since HHS closed the adult emer­gency room at MUMC six years ago to fo­cus on car­ing for chil­dren, as part of the Ac­cess to Best Care (ABC) plan.

“I think it makes sense to con­sol­i­date,” he said.

But it comes on the heels of a re­cent change not too long ago.

“I’m a lit­tle leery of con­stant change. But I know their goal and am­bi­tion is to im­prove health care for all.”

The head of one of the unions rep­re­sent­ing HHS work­ers thinks now is the time to ask for a new hospi­tal. Three of the five other projects ap­proved in the bud­get are new hos­pi­tals.

“It does make sense,” said Dave Mur­phy, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Lo­cal 7800. “It would be a build­ing (HHS) ac­tu­ally owns as op­posed to leas­ing it from McMaster Uni­ver­sity. (MUMC) needs a lot of money in ren­o­va­tions and up­keep. What a bet­ter way, to start fresh with a new hospi­tal, so money can go to hospi­tal ser­vices in­stead of fix­ing bad in­fra­struc­ture.”

Mur­phy says work­ers want a voice, while HHS is de­cid­ing on the pri­or­i­ties.

“We have to be at the ta­ble. So far they have been pretty trans­par­ent with us. So, as long as they con­tinue that now that they have the money. I think the com­mu­nity should have some in­put as well,” he said.

For­mer HHS board chair Marvin Ry­der, who helped ap­prove the ABC plan, says mod­ern­iz­ing West Lin­coln will likely be at the top of the list.

“I think that will be the first pri­or­ity, be­cause it’s just so over­due,” said Ry­der. “This pe­cu­liar idea of va­cat­ing McMaster Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre …. If I was guess­ing the tim­ing of that I’d be guess­ing Year 15 of 20 in­stead of Year 2.”

West Lin­coln was sup­posed to be de­mol­ished and a new $207-mil­lion hospi­tal built, un­til the Lib­er­als killed the plan in the 2012 bud­get — along with four other projects in Con­ser­va­tive-held rid­ings. The MPP at the time was op­po­si­tion leader Tim Hu­dak.

“We know that hospi­tal is well be­yond its best be­fore date,” said MacIsaac. “It’s very old. It will be near the top, but we have other parts of our in­fra­struc­ture that are also re­ally old.”

For­mer LHIN board mem­ber Stephen Birch, who re­signed be­cause of a lack of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion when the ABC plan was ap­proved, wor­ries the same process is hap­pen­ing again.

While HHS talked to the com­mu­nity be­fore the plan was cre­ated, Birch ques­tions whether there has been any in­put since.

“As with the ABC plan sev­eral years ago, it ap­pears the plan has been de­vel­oped and now has funds al­lo­cated to it by the govern­ment with­out any pub­lic scru­tiny,” he said.

NDP leader An­drea Hor­wath said she was not con­sulted be­fore or af­ter the plan was cre­ated.

“There are not enough hospi­tal beds, pe­riod. And what­ever Hamil­ton Health Sciences de­cides to do with the money, it bet­ter be about mak­ing sure we have enough hospi­tal beds to serve the needs of the pa­tients,” she said.

“We see too many sit­u­a­tions where peo­ple are lined up in hall­ways in stretch­ers for days on ends in emer­gency wards and that’s not good enough.”

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