By Barb McKay
The province has no plans to rebuild the Kincardine hospital.
That is the word from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. A spokesperson for Health Minister Deb Matthews confirmed Friday that while the project proposal is still with the Ministry’s capital planning branch, no funding has been allocated to it.
“Right now there are no plans to move forward with the project,” Sheamus Murphy told The Independent. “That doesn’t mean it won’t happen down the road, but we have to be upfront. It’s still with the Ministry, it’s still under consideration, but as of right now there are no plans to move forward, given the current financial restraints.”
This announcement came just two days after Premier Kathleen Wynne told The Independent that the Liberal government’s top priorities are investments in health care and education. Investments in infrastructure,
she said, create further investments both in the short term and long term.
“We’re committed to working with all communities in the province to make sure all people have access to quality care.”
Wynne acknowledged that might mean locating some services outside of the community.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t support hospitals, we’ll continue to do that,” she said.
Murphy said the Ministry is facing some very difficult financial limitations, which is why Kincardine’s long-awaited hospital redevelopment has not made the cut.
“We had to make some tough decisions,” he said, “and this was not taken lightly.”
Kincardine’s hospital redevelopment project was first approved in August 2011, but then scrapped from the budget in 2012. The SBGHC re-jigged its proposal, trimming down both the scale and the budget (construction costs for phase one and two were estimated at $75 million) and resubmitted it to the Ministry. It has since been waiting for it to land on the province’s 10-year capital project list.
South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) president and CEO Paul Rosebush already had a hunch that the project wouldn’t find its way onto the provincial budget anytime soon and last week announced that the health centre is approaching the hospital project from another angle.
“We’ve been frustrated in the community and at the SBGHC with the lack of progress on a firm decision with our proposal,” he said. “We know we’re not on the redevelopment list, that’s clear, but the Minister said these issues are under consideration.”
The health centre has decided instead of waiting to go with Plan B; a major overhaul of several departments within the Kincardine hospital. The new project would include extensive renovations to the emergency room, diagnostic imaging and laboratory departments; moving ambulatory care from the second floor to the first floor; and modernizing the hospital interior.
“We think we can do that for a fairly reasonable price,” Rosebush said. “We think this is a very realistic and doable project.”
Rosebush said the new proposal is expected to be completed in May. It would be brought to the SBGHC board in June for approval before it can be submitted to the Ministry’s capital planning branch to go through the approval process.
“I don’t see many road blocks in approving this at the LHIN (Local Health Integrated Network) and the Ministry level,” he said. “I think it’s something that could happen pretty quickly.”
Rosebush said this proposal should be significantly more attractive to the province because most of the funds required to complete the work would be (or have already been) raised in the community and with stakeholders.
“I’m very excited by this because I think it is very achievable and I think people will be excited once they see the plan.”