#WEareready Healthcare, count ME in! WE Deserve it!

Cup of Joe

Windsor is on the verge of the most potentially significant overhaul of their healthcare system in their 124 year history, affecting close to 400,000 residents in the city and county.

Healthcare access and facilities that so many other communities in the province have benefited from with our tax dollars has been ignored by senior levels of government and denied for far too many years for Windsor and Essex.

One needs only to visit London to recognize the enormous disparity between the two cities’ healthcare systems. Granted, London is the seed of one of the great medical universities in the country and, as a result, has benefited from their presence with the ’Cadillac’ of healthcare systems.

But Windsor is light years behind them both in healthcare infrastructure and available services. That could all change for Windsor with the new proposed Windsor Essex healthcare system centered around the new acute care hospital.

The final site selection for the acute care hospital is at County Road 42 and Concession 9 in the city of Windsor, a site favoured by 70% of respondents from two recent media polls. However, there is some lingering dissenting opinion as to the preferred location of the new acute care hospital.

Some argue that it should be located in the urban core, while others prefer the second place site location off Tecumseh Road East. But both groups are steadfast in their rejection of the final site selection for the acute care hospital at County Road 42 and Concession 9. To me, this dissent is both shortsighted and unfortunate.

There is a mistaken belief by some Windsor residents who want the new acute care hospital built closer to the urban core since the vast majority of the aggregate population of the city of Windsor and the county of Essex resides within Windsor. This is false. The 2011 Canadian Census reports that Windsor has approximately only 37,000 more residents than the county. It works out to be a 54 to 46% split of the total city and county population. In fact, statistics reveal that in recent years the county’s population continues to grow, while the city’s population declines.

When presented with this fact some then argue that the county residents in Kingsville and Leamington are serviced by Leamington District Memorial Hospital and their population should not be factored into the aggregate totals.

Excluding Kingsville and Leamington from these calculations regarding the number of county patients that this new proposed hospital should support is not a factually based premise. For example, during the 12 month period, Dec 1-Nov 30 in 2015,  Leamington transferred 319 patients from their ER to Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) as well as 181 inpatients.

This means that in total 500 patients went from Leamington to WRH for their care – hospital to hospital. At the same time, over 5000 patients came directly from their homes within Leamington’s “catchment” area to WRH. To exclude Leamington and Kingsville from any stats comparison between the county and city is not correct and is misleading.

“So, why not just renovate and build on our existing two acute care hospitals in Windsor?” That is a question raised by more than just a few. In fact, that was the very question being examined back in April 2012, when our then Ontario Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, created the Windsor Hospital’s Study Task Force to examine that possibility, or whether there is a legitimate need for a new regional acute care hospital to replace current facilities. It was co-chaired by Dave Cooke, Teresa Piruzza, MPP and Tom Porter.

In November 30, 2012, after months of community engagement, The Windsor Hospital’s Study Task Force released a final report recommending the province “proceed immediately in approving the planning and construction of a new single site for the Windsor Essex region.”

The Task Force’s report highlighted the cost differential between the renovation and upgrade of the existing acute care hospitals vis-à-vis the cost of constructing a new standalone acute care hospital for Windsor and Essex.

“In order to meet the needs of both WRH and HDGH for future health care service delivery, hundreds of millions of dollars would be required to redevelop existing hospital infrastructure. The costs of new hospitals constructed elsewhere in the province (roughly $1.2 billion) is well exceeded by the $2 billion estimated cost in total to rebuild Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan campus and reconstruct seven inpatient floors at Hôtel Dieu Grace Hospital (reflected in a future phase of HDGH’s master plan).” – Windsor Hospital Study Task Force

The former Windsor City Council with Eddie Francis as mayor, offered airport lands for use in 2014 for the proposed acute care hospital, lands immediately across the road from the final site selection on County Road 42. This was at a time when the county was also lobbying for the proposed acute care hospital with their own property proposals.

So it is somewhat baffling to see people in disagreement with the final site selection when, in fact, the city initially proposed land virtually in the same area. This final site selection was based on sound planning principles and in accord with the City of Windsor’s 20 year Master Plan that already includes massive infrastructure development plans for residential, commercial and institutional growth for the area.

Some Windsor residents, especially those in the city core or far west end, fear they will be at a disadvantage if the proposed acute care hospital is built on County Road 42 at Concession 9. Traffic engineering experts have determined that the proposed acute care hospital will be within 12 km of 70% of its city users.

And, with the opening of the Herb Gray Parkway which extends to the far west end, many residents of the west end now have improved travel route options for accessing the final site selection in terms of travel time and distance. Transit Windsor already services the nearby area and will adapt their routes accordingly to provide timely service to the acute care hospital.

With respect to the question of distance and time required to reach the proposed acute care hospital site, perhaps those who see the final site as too far a distance to travel are suffering from ’Windsor-itus’ – a condition best described as being ‘spoiled’ in our transportation times and distances to most points within our city boundaries.

For example, I can travel from my home on Victoria Avenue at Shepherd and reach the WFCU Centre within 15 minutes via Tecumseh Rd or E.C. Rowe Expressway. That’s from the city core to the far east end of the city. Most other medium to larger sized cities in Ontario would welcome having 70% of their acute hospital users within a 12 km distance from their homes.

Windsorites recall far too well the horrific history of the residents of the Grace Hospital site which sat derelict for far too long when it’s doors were shuttered February 2004. They fear that residents and businesses near our existing medical facilities will face the same fate under the proposed new health care system.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The old Grace Hospital site is proposed for the development of a modern urgent care facility designed with service, staff and equipment to deal the many types of ‘urgent’ cases that today clog up the emergency rooms at our two acute care hospitals.

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.

The current west end Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare at the Tayfour Campus will see the construction and redevelopment of the existing site with the addition of a new 60-bed acute mental health wing. There will also be a significant addition of dialysis services and an expansion of diagnostic imaging.

And finally, the current Windsor Regional Hospital Met Campus site will be handed over to the City of Windsor in exchange for the Grace Hospital site on Crawford where the urgent care facility is proposed to be built. Unlike the Grace site which fell into private ownership and beyond the control and oversite of the city, the Met campus will become city property to be used in the future for development consistent with the existing residential and commercial neighbourhoods.

For me, supporting this initiative is a no-brainer.  As a lifelong Windsorite, I am thrilled at the prospect that Windsor-Essex will soon have “a seamless, integrated and accessible healthcare system for all residents in Windsor-Essex.” For years our hard earned tax dollars have funded similar health care systems for other communities throughout the province. Now it’s their turn to finance Windsor’s deserved and long overdue new health care system.

I strongly urge all residents to support this new healthcare system proposal for Windsor and Essex County.

#WEareready is the new social media hashtag developed to show our support for this project.  We are at a critical time in the five step process outlined by the province for communities seeking their share of the province’s capital investment dollars in future healthcare systems.  We are in a serious dogfight with five other Ontario communities all vying for those capital dollars.

So 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.

For more detailed facts and information visit www.windsorhospitals.ca or watch this video.

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Joe retired January 2015 as a Superintendent from a 26 year career with the Canada Border Services Agency in Windsor. Since then he has jettisoned into a number of exciting new opportunities. As a volunteer with YourTV since 2003 Joe is an on air personality for the City of Windsor and Essex County Council meetings. He is also a registered Ontario Marriage Officiant since 2006 and is co-owner of Creative Marriage Celebrations. Joe now shares his talents and numerous life experiences with Biz X as a regular blogger, columnist and any other “Joe – Jobs” we can find for him.