Welcome friends, grab yourself a Cup of Joe, pull up a chair and let’s chat once again about the proposed integrated regional healthcare system and debunk some Mega Hospital myths.
It’s been about three months since I first blogged about the proposed acute care mega hospital proposed for Windsor Essex to be built and County Road 42 and Concession 9. Since that time I have traveled extensively throughout Windsor and Essex County and engaged many friends and strangers alike in discussion about this project and found there are many mega hospital myths.
Of those I’ve chatted with, approximately 15% had little or no awareness regarding the location or what factors led to its choice. However, the vast majority, perhaps as high as 60 to 70%, favoured the site selection committee’s choice. About 15% of the people were strongly opposed to its location.
As part of the cost sharing arrangement for the project between the WE region and the province, the city of Windsor’s contribution is $108 million. The remaining portion of the $200 million commitment will be the responsibility of the county.
Last night Windsor City Council was scheduled to debate a one-time 2% tax levy increase starting in 2016 and reduced incrementally through subsequent years until it is eliminated in 2028. Mayor Dilkens identifies this as the largest capital project in our lifetime. Because of this, a one-week deferral of the matter was proposed by the mayor due to Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk’s absence at the meeting.
The magnitude of this debate is such that it deserves the participation of all our elected officials, barring any who are exempt by way of conflict of interest.
The matter will now be dealt with at a special City Council meeting on Monday, April 25 at 6 PM. Those who had registered as delegates for last night’s meeting are still eligible to attend and appear as delegates, but must register once again. As a side note, Mayor Dilkens indicated that he will introduce an amended proposal which would see funds extracted from the city’s reserve funds and from the Samsung solar project. By doing this, the 2% tax levy increase can be significantly reduced.
Unaware of the mayor’s intention to defer the matter for one week, I attended Windsor City Council last night with the expectation of experiencing a spirited debate by our Council and about a dozen registered delegates who oppose the final site selection location. They want the project restarted. As a result, they were there to oppose the proposed tax levy increase to finance the city’s commitment to the project.
The anti-mega hospital location ‘camps’ met Council-goers at the front doors of City Hall brandishing an array of protest signs. They are a determined and passionate group and view the site selection choice as “irrational, madness, reckless, a social justice issue, a human right’s violation” – just to name a few of their social media descriptions.
I’m all for free and open debate on matters that affect our community and our future. And while we may not always agree with each other’s positions, our discourse should strive to be one of respect and honesty. I find some who oppose this project engage in unnecessary hyperbole and rhetoric.
To identify a regional mega hospital location that will serve 70% of its users (in the city) who live within 12 km of it as a ‘social justice issue and/or a human rights violation’ is, in my view, over the top. And as bothersome as this hyperbole and rhetoric can be, I am more disturbed by the dishonesty expressed by some of them in terms of the information they disseminate to others. Fear mongering serves no legitimate purpose in reasoned discourse.
As I indicated earlier, I’ve engaged many people throughout the Windsor Essex County area in discussions about the most potentially significant overhaul of our healthcare system in our 124 year history, affecting close to 400,000 residents in the city and county. The following is a sampling of some of the inaccuracies (and my responses) some residents have been fed by some of these groups:
“The proposed mega-hospital is not being built in Windsor, but in the county.” – This is false. It is proposed to be built on land adjacent to Windsor Airport within the city boundaries of Windsor.
“The mega hospital is being built where there is no bus service and will disadvantage many of the poor and the elderly in the community.” – Of course there is no bus service currently at the proposed site, because there is nothing at the proposed site at the present time. But just as there was no bus service to vacant lands on South Walker before the development of Costco, Silver City and other new businesses, the city has since established quality bus service to these areas.
“The mega hospital should be built in the city core of Windsor, not in an area benefiting County residents.” – What people fail to realize is that this proposed mega-hospital and overhaul to our healthcare system is largely dictated by criteria set out by the project’s major funder, the province of Ontario. It is intended to be a regional hospital serving the 400,000 residents that make up Windsor and Essex County. I find it so self-serving by Windsorites who insist that County residents are second-class citizens to the needs of Windsorites.
“The new proposed acute care hospital will have less beds than the current bed totals at our two current acute-care facilities.” – Again, incorrect. As stated on the Windsor Hospitals Information Site, “The total number of beds in the new hospital will be consistent with the existing number of beds, with the capacity to increase to meet future demands. Keep in mind that the new bed projections include a 50 per cent reduction in beds occupied by ALC (Alternate Level of Care) patients. With this reduction, effectively we are creating new acute care beds. This can be achieved through more home care and community-based health services outside of a hospital. The ESC LHIN is conducting a Community Capacity Plan which will help identify what services are needed, and where.”
“The building housing the Ouellette Ave Campus of Windsor Regional Hospital will be torn down.” – Again, incorrect. The current Windsor Regional Hospital – Ouellette Campus will be redeveloped to support outpatient mental health services currently offered at this site and at the soon to be opened HDGH Transitional Stability Centre. Chronic Disease Management will also be dealt with at this downtown location. This re-purposing of our current Ouellette Ave acute care hospital will reclaim its former century long identity as Hotel-Dieu Grace. It’ll be great to welcome Hotel-Dieu-Grace back downtown to Ouellette Avenue.
These are just some of the mega hospital myths I’ve encountered in the past few months from people I’ve talked with and from the social media I have reviewed.
Jesse Jackson once stated, “Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.”
Facing the greatest overhaul to our very impoverished regional health care system, Windsor- Essex residents must be engaged in soul stirring deliberation and debate that is honest, respectful and serving the needs of the entire region.
And, finally, the ongoing and disgraceful personal ad hominem attacks I’ve heard and read by some on the character of Messrs, Musyj, Cooke, etc., – and our local municipal and provincial politicians supporting #WEareready – needs to cease. Character assassination and name calling of public figures disqualifies persons from any legitimate engagement or right to be taken seriously.
Folks, we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to improve not only our health care, but that of succeeding generations.
As I wrote in my January blog, “all of us need to tell our elected members of provincial parliament – especially the Minister of Health – that the time has come for Windsor-Essex to finally have the integrated regional healthcare system that WE deserve.”