Scrouge Hospital told to start talking to Lakeridge about capital planning

Robert Biron quietly came into the Central East LHIN board meeting and sat as a spectator. The CEO of the Scarborough Hospital silently left the room again after the LHIN gave him most of what he came for.

One of the conditions of a potential merger between The Scarborough Hospital and the Rouge Valley Health System was seed money towards a feasibility study for a new Scarborough mega-hospital to replace the three outdated sites – Birchmount, Scarborough General and Centenary – as well as an expansion of hospital services in West Durham.

The LHIN had no problem endorsing the “service and program elements” of the pre-capital submissions, but realized that any decision on West Durham would likely have to involve the other major regional hospital: Lakeridge Health.

After being spurned by Toronto East General and eventually finding a dance partner with the Rouge Valley Health System, the Scarborough Hospital may be a little bashful about turning even further East to take Lakeridge Health out on a date.

The LHIN stresses that any contact with Lakeridge would be about capacity planning and not integration. It’s purely platonic even if Lakeridge has a very lovely cancer centre and a recent history of balanced budgets.

The reasons behind the two capital plans are very different. The Scarborough General is an oddball warren of add-ons and their operating rooms are among the oldest in the province. The two hospitals also like to remind us over and over that Centenary is only six kilometers from the Scarborough General Hospital. The Ajax-Pickering Hospital (RVHS) recently completed a significant modern expansion, but the planning was never sufficient for the rapidly expanding community.

The boards of The Scarborough and Rouge Valley hospitals have set the bar high for the consummation of their marriage. There is no guarantee that Health Minister Deb Matthews will agree to provide the substantial dowry they are seeking – the LHIN warning that there are many points in the capital planning process where the projects could fail. Green lighting the submission does not guarantee a new hospital. One of those points could include less political pressure if the polls rebound for the incumbent Scarborough Liberal MPPs.

Board members expressed concern about endorsing the Scarborough capital project while placing the West Durham plan in at least a pseudo state of limbo.

At present the LHIN has funded Scarborough and Rouge to rummage through their closets to see if there are any impediments to their forthcoming marriage. No skeletons have yet to be reported.

The boards will get one more shot at saying “I do” before an integration decision formally comes before the Central East LHIN. The question is, will Matthews given them enough to go forward with the merger, or will it stall looking for a more definitive answer?

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