In Grimsby they must be shaking their heads. They may not be the only ones.
On Wednesday 8,000 residents came out in the rain to try to save the $138 million project to build a new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. The hospital was among six projects that were either cut or scaled back in the spring budget.
The day after the massive community rally, Kevin Smith, the province’s appointed supervisor for the Niagara Health System, says the province should close four South Niagara hospitals and replace them with a single regional facility. He is also proposing to close the hospital at Niagara-on-the-Lake, taking the NHS down to just two hospital sites and a stand-alone urgent care centre. The proposed new hospital would replace facilities in Welland, Niagara Falls, Port Colborne and Fort Erie.
This is on top of the new $759 million privatized facility intended to consolidate NHS services in St. Catharines. The P3 hospital is expected to open in 2013.
Smith recommends a new hospital that would include a regional stroke centre, a regional geriatrics program, total joint replacement centre, general internal medicine and surgical services (including general surgery, cancer surgery, orthopedics, and ambulatory clinics) and complex care.
Smith also wants the hospital to look at the business case for a free-standing eye and minor surgery clinic.
While not even open yet, Smith would move maternal and in-patient pediatrics from the new St. Catharines hospital to the proposed “south” site when complete. The supervisor argues the new ‘Niagara North’ mega hospital would likely need additional capacity for the new cancer and cardiac programs. He says the south site, while not even chosen, would be more central to the majority of the population.
Smith estimates a new South Niagara hospital could cost between $878 million and $1.16 billion and generate savings from the current configuration of between $2 million and $9.5 million.
Meanwhile Smith projects the Niagara Health System will continue to run into the red if the province holds firm of zero-based core budgets, a cumulative deficit forecast to be $29.2 million by 2014-15.
Back in Grimsby, West Lincoln’s obstetrics chief, Dr. Nwachukwu Nwebube told the crowd that their new hospital was not a luxury but a necessity.
Grimsby is a high growth area with many young families. Nwebube says the hospital delivered 900 babies last year, but only has room for 500.
The Hamilton Spectator reports that Nwebube told the crowd “each time we have three labours we worry: Oh no, what if there’s a fourth? We have no room.”
While Health Minister Deb Matthews insists she is dealing with fiscal reality, it hasn’t stopped Finance Minister Dwight Duncan from proposing a new mega hospital of his own for his home riding of Windsor.
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Correct me if I am wrong, but does the government ever listen to the public?