While cancelling the new $136.8 million West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby, along with cuts to five other hospital projects across the province, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced a task force to look at building a new $1.5 billion regional hospital in his Windsor constituency.
The new super hospital would replace both Windsor Regional Hospital and Windsor Hotel Dieu. This is even though both hospitals have undergone recent additions, including a $91.6 million mental health facility at WRH and an $80 million cardiac care expansion at Hotel Dieu. Last year the government also approved a $60 million expansion of WRH’s ER and laboratory facilities – a project that wasn’t shelved as part of the McGuinty austerity budget.
Despite more than $230 million in new builds at the two hospitals – almost twice what it would cost to rebuild West Lincoln, Duncan estimates the Windsor hospitals will require another $1.8 billion in new capital projects to keep the two hospitals operating.
David Musyj, CEO of Windsor Regional, says both the buildings and the site are physically inadequate for what’s needed in the near future.
Neither Musyj nor Duncan have said what is pushing the demand given both the city and region recently recorded a decline in their overall population (Windsor declined 2.6 per cent since 2006, the metropolitan area shrank by 1.3 per cent).
Of course, a merger would also mean rationalization of services – a common thread following most hospital mergers in Ontario. Musyj told the Windsor Star that there is still some duplication of services, supplies and equipment that could be done away with by combining both institutions.
As Peterborough recently learned, amalgamating and building a new hospital does not necessarily mean an expansion of services. It has also been struggling with its budget, cutting large numbers of beds and staff positions that have impacted the hospital’s quality indicators.
Amalgamation of hospitals in the Niagara community has also led to spiralling deficits and community concern over quality of services. More than 30 C-difficile related deaths took place at the NHS last year. Two NHS community hospitals also lost their ERs as part of the hospital’s “improvement” plan.
Both WRH and Hotel Dieu are already the results of earlier amalgamations in the Windsor area.
Duncan has asked Liberal MPP Teresa Piruzza (Windsor West), former NDP MPP Dave Cooke and former city counsellor Tom Porter to chair a public consultation committee on the merger and new build.
As part of the austerity budget, Duncan cancelled hospital upgrades in Grimsby, Toronto (Sunnybrook), Kincardine, and Wingham while “restructuring” projects in Brockville and St. Thomas.
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