Hey Bob! Read OUR Lips!

GROW MILTON HOSPITAL!

I read with interest an article in the Champion last week called “Councillors disappointed with infrastructure plan”  Click on the link to read it in full.

Disappointed isn’t the word.  In addition to Regional Councillor Colin Best’s comments, I also spoke about the lack of detail in this report and despite the Town’s efforts in keeping the province “in the loop” we have been kept in the dark.  And its not just Milton municipal councillors who are disappointed with the plan, or lack thereof.  Its the hundreds of mayors, regional & local councillors who are scratching their heads at the vagueness of the capital infrastructure plan recently released by the Provincial government.

The report called “Building Together” was supposed to outline a list of municipalities and their important infrastructure projects that would be green lighted by the province, such as expansion of Milton District Hospital, growing our university / college campuses (Milton Education Village) and other much needed road developments.

Instead we got a “we promise” document.  We promise that the provincial government will help fund these projects.  We promise.

When politicians utter the words “we promise” taxpayers roll their eyes.  Been there…done that.  Tell us something new.

It’s with that in mind I chuckled when I read the comments from Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli when he said the following:

“People know what our commitment is,” he (Chiarelli) said. “Read my lips, we mean business.”

Personally speaking, I really don’t know what to do with that comment.  I remember a certain US President who made the same “read my lips” promise and it came back to bite him in the old hindquarters.  He claims people know what the governments commitment is.  How can the people of Milton know what the provinces commitments are if they are not outlined.

And really when it comes down to it, Bob is a former Mayor of Ottawa and if anyone could understand what the cities and towns in Ontario are going through right now its him.

When the Town of Milton is asked to put forward a 10 year capital projection at budget time, we do.  The budget has a list of projects that are slated to begin, the time they are ready to go, and the approximate financial commitments needed to complete that project.  The same can be said for the Region of Halton and in fact, every municipality does this.  Why cant the Province of Ontario do the same?

The Premier of Ontario recently prorouged Queens Park for the summer and with a provincial election slated for October 6th, its highly unlikely they will be back to work at Queens Park any time soon.  Therefore the taxpayers of Milton must wait on pins and needles to see if this government will announce any projects before that time.  In fact its more likely we will hear something, if anything AFTER the election in October.

This will now put the timeline for the expansion of Milton District Hospital even further behind.

“Read my lips, we mean business.”

A little history lesson for you Bob just in case you missed it the first time around.  The minister of health Deb Matthews can also listen in as well as the Premier.

Between the Friends of Milton campaign a few years ago where over 35,000 signatures were secured from Milton residents and delivered to the health ministers office to the most recent Grow Milton Hospital campaign, where over 6,000 signatures were collected in a matter of weeks, Milton residents have been trying to let you know that we mean business.  Our council even installed a hospital expansion levy on our taxpayers (you know my feelings on THAT issue) in the hopes it would let the provincial government know we meant business too.  We as a town have done everything possible to raise the awareness of this problem that can affect the delivery of health care services to the people of Milton.  Instead we get a “read my lips” response.

The population of Milton is approaching 100,000 people and the last expansion at MDH took place back in 1987 when the population was 30,000.  Even then the current facilities were too small for that number and it wont be able to sustain itself much longer.  The infrastrucutre within the hospital is falling apart.  The hosptial recently got a new piece of equipment to sterilize medical instruments and it couldnt work because the electical system couldnt handle it and the installation was delayed by a couple of weeks.

Alan Halls from Halton Healthcare Services and John Oliver have made plea after plea to the province to green light the expansion of the hospital because the system will not be able to sustain itself at the current rate of growth.  The Milton Town Council has repeatedly sent you reports on the status of our growth, mandated by the provincial government, and the possible effects on our schools, roads and the hospital.

Expert after expert has told the LHIN and the Ministry of Health that the expansion of Milton Hospital is needed NOW.  The people of the town of Milton have told you endlessly that the expansion of Milton Hospital is needed NOW.  There are hundreds of signs on the lawns of the people of Milton that say “The Time is NOW! Grow Milton Hospital!”  As a local councillor in Milton I get stopped in the street, I receive emails and get phone calls from residents asking when will it happen…when will it start?

Read OUR lips Bob!  We mean business as well. 

Milton isn’t by far in the worst situation when it comes to hospitals and the delivery of health care services to their residents.  We know that!  What the taxpayers have seen over the last 8 years is $1 Billion wasted on EHealth (imagine what that money could have done to expand hospital facilities) and other programs, while we sit back and watch our hospital crumble before our eyes.  The doctors and nurses in Milton Hospital are doing the best they can given the circumstances.  Something has to give soon.  We only hope that a life isn’t put into danger before something happens with the expansion.

The Town of Milton has committed to providing the local share thats needed for the hospital expansion.  We dont have an amount yet and that can happen only if the project gets green-lighted by the province and we can get started in the planning.  When that happens, we will consult with Miltonians on the best direction to raise that local share.  We’re ready to go!  Just give us the green light!

Read our lips Bob!  Grow Milton Hospital!

The List Is Out AND?

Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

The Provincial Government has released its 10 year capital forecast for infrastructure projects (for things like HOSPITALS, GO Transit etc.) and despite the efforts of thousands of Miltonians, Halton Healthcare Services and countless numbers of pleas, there is nothing in this report regarding a green light for the expansion of Milton District Hospital.

The link is here if you’d like to skim through it.

It provides few details of hospitals that “COULD” receive funding over the next few years based on the ability of the government to pay for it.  Can you say “election promises”?  Here’s how its worded…”Completing the 27 major hospital projects under construction, and continuing to invest in hospital expansions and redevelopment projects, subject to fiscal capacity.” AND “Investing in three to five major hospital expansions and redevelopment projects each year, subject to fiscal capacity.” (page v of the report)

Through all the discussions in the last year or so regarding hospital levy’s and how they were supposed to help us get where we need to go, rally’s and reasons to go and not to go and those of us (me mostly) to “play nice” when it comes to putting pressure on the provincial government to open their eyes and “get off their duff” and do something about it….all of that didnt work.

Council was sold on the hospital levy that it will help. It didnt. That idea failed. Period. Full stop.

“Be nice” Mike…I was told. “Dont rock the boat.” I complied.

All of that proved to be unsuccessful in the grand scheme of things as Ive gone through that report and found NOTHING regarding Milton’s hospital.

Its provincial election time. And my gloves are off. Im hoping that those who said theyll be in line to drive the bus to Queens Park and protest hold true to their promises because now is the time to rattle some cages.

Its gone beyond silly side remarks to the premier when he drops into town for at Tweetup. I got him to say “Milton Hospital Expansion” which was cute and all, but does nothing when it comes to the big picture.

The level of frustration that I and thousands of Miltonians are feeling right now is beyond words. Im tired of tip-toeing around things and I hope the other community leaders feel the same way. It seems the way things “should be done” dont work.

I want everyone, regardless of party youll be supporting in the next election, PC, Liberal, NDP, GREEN, RHINO, Pancake…whatever it is. If you have a sign on your lawn, make sure you have a GROW MILTON HOSPITAL to go along with it

The GROW MILTON HOSPITAL campaign, despite others saying it was “political” simply wasnt. It wasnt meant to promote any particular party and it again wont be. It simply has to be said to any candidate, Ted, Indira, (cant remember the name of the NDP if theres one) or anyone else that walks through this riding that the hospital needs to be greenlighted and NOW. If any of the party leaders fly through town for photo ops they will be met with ME and hopefully a few others with GROW MILTON HOSPTIAL signs and demands of a FIRM date for green lighting the expansion. Nothing else will be accepted.

With this delay, it puts us even MORE behind the 8 ball when it comes to the delivery of health care services in this town. We need a made in Milton solution for our hospital as others that are being built in the surrounding areas ARENT designed for growth in other regions.

Evidence has been presented forever and a day with the need for growth at MDH and its been ignored. Thanks but no thanks.

We’ve had senior members of the provincial govt through town from the infrastructure minister, to the health minister to the premier and MUMS the word. They knew nothing was going to be done. Any mention of the hospital expansion and either theyre whisked away to question period or they blurt out lines like “er….uh….we’re looking at it” Whatever.

Sorry that Im venting but reading through this report and thinking back to all the comments I got from others saying “be nice…it’ll happen…this will help …dont you worry.” Well, we now see where that got us.

ZILCH.

Milton Canadian Champion Covers Grow Milton Hospital

Citizens rally for Milton hospital expansion

(Photo Courtesy of Milton Canadian Champion, Graham Paine) – By Christina Commisso, Milton Canadian Champion

The signs are up, the signatures are in and the will is strong.

The time for Milton’s hospital expansion is now — that message was heard loud and clear Saturday morning.

About 30 people huddled under the gazebo at Victoria Park, sheltered against the rain and wind, to show their support for the expansion.

“We’re a small group, but we’re mighty,” said Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh.

He, along with citizen’s group Grow Milton Hospital, has collected more than 5,000 signatures of support for the expansion over a six-week campaign.

The petitions were delivered to Queen’s Park yesterday.

The urgency of the expansion was outlined by Milton District Hospital (MDH) surgeon Dr. Jeff Kolbasnik, who spoke during the morning event. 

“When I started (at MDH) we had lots of ward beds. Anytime I needed to admit a patient there was no issue. In the emergency department there would be a few people backed up, but routinely people would get seen within an hour. We never had surgery cancelled because no beds were available and getting a patient in urgently was no problem. Things have really changed.”

According to Kolbasnik, it’s not just the population spike that has placed mounting pressure on MDH; the infrastructure at the hospital is showing signs of deterioration.

He pointed to a leaky roof last summer that led to the evacuation of the medical surgical ward for almost a week. MDH recently received a “state of the art” surgical sterilization machine, which Kolbasnik said took a week to install because the hospital’s infrastructure was too old to support the new technology.

“During that week we had to ration surgical equipment…that’s not the sort of thing that should be happening in a growing community like ours.”

He continued, “As much as there’s a gradual deterioration, we’re worried we’re going to reach a breaking point when things just start to fall apart.”

Organizer and Ward 6 Councillor Mike Cluett took some time to dispel common rumors circulating about the MDH expansion.

Pointing to the new north Oakville hospital, Cluett said: “The Oakville hospital is designed for Oakville’s growth, not for other communities. We need a made-in-Milton hospital expansion for Milton’s needs now.”

Cluett added that he’s unfazed by naysayers.

“We’ve heard, ‘It’s great you’re doing this but it’s not going to make a difference.’ Well we’d rather go down swinging than not do anything at all. We want to let the provincial government know that it starts with them. Give us the go ahead, and we’ll figure the rest out.”

Playing MC for the event, Scott Fox of Z103.5 said when he moved to town seven years ago he would brag to his friends about the zero wait times at MDH.

“Now the tables have turned,” he said.

“All you have to do is look around at a town that’s bursting at the seams and a hospital that was built decades ago. The fact that people are waiting, they’re being sent to other communities for critical care, surgeries are being postponed because there’s not enough beds — this screams expansion.”

Chudleigh said he hopes the message comes through loud and clear at Queen’s Park. The petition was delivered mere weeks before the Province is expected to release its 10-year infrastructure list for high-priority projects.

Despite what transpires in the next few weeks, Cluett said the momentum for the expansion won’t slow down anytime soon.

“It doesn’t end today. It’s going to continue until the spade is in the ground and we have our hospital.”

Hospital Rally Signs

UPDATE:  APRIL 5TH 2011

CupcakeMommies were out in full force recently getting signatures on the petition for THE TIME IS NOW rally for Milton District Hospital.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

You might have noticed over the weekend that there are a number of “The Time Is NOW” signs popping up on lawns in Milton.  Many thanks to those who allowed their lawns, especially during a federal election, to be used to host this important message.

You can pick up yours by emailing me mike@mikecluett.ca and for more information you can go to www.growmiltonhospital.com

The rally is slated for Saturday April 16th at 10AM by town hall.  Signatures for the petition are also gaining speed and you still have time to sign.  Contact us and maybe YOU can join others in letting the provincial government know that The Time Is Now to Grow Milton Hospital.

More pictures of town councillors signing the petition to come!

Councillor Ward 7 Rick Di Lorenzo signs the petition.
Councillor Ward 8 Zeeshan Hamid signs the petition.
Councillor Ward 2 Greg Nelson signs the petition.
Anthony Cluett with the big THUMBS UP!

More Feedback on Hospital Expansion Levy

In what seems to be a recurring theme in the Milton Champions Letter to the Editor section, there is more feedback on councils decision to implement a 1% tax levy for the potential hospital expansion for MDH.

Most of the comments received by Miltonians on this blog, through email and in the Champion tends to focus on the fact that this decision was made with no public input and because we haven’t received the go ahead from the provincial government.

Dear Editor:

I read with interest the letter by John Challinor in the February 3 Champion entitled, ‘Hospital levy should be rescinded; taxpayers engaged in discussion.’

We agree that the tax levy should be re-opened for further discussion.

As life-long residents of Milton, we don’t oppose paying money toward our hospital expansion. However, we do question why the decision was made so quickly, when the Milton District Hospital expansion isn’t yet approved by the provincial government.

We urge councillors to re-open the tax levy issue for public discussion.

Jean and Joe Gregoris, Milton  

If you haven’t already read Stuart Service’s article in the Halton Compass last week, (front page / second page) suggest you have a read.  In the article, Stuart asks Dalton McGuinty about Milton’s decision to implement the levy and asks the all important question of will this help.  The Premier’s answer is quite telling.

(photo by Stuart Service, courtesy of Halton Compass)

McGunity did not confirm whether or not a MDH levy would increase the towns chance at landing provincial approval for the hospital expansion.

“It’s obviously a sign of a strong committment on the part of the community, but I think that there is a lot of factors that we have to take into account when it comes to what we’re going to put something next.”

He continued…

“At this point in time, we’re talking about a long term plan and none of those decisions have been made yet.  One of the things we have to look at is where do we go going forward with respect to our capital plan.”

“We’re in a significant deficit , its a matter of modest growth, its a time of still too high unemployment.”

Doesn’t necessarily spark optimism now does it?  In fact its the opposite.  As the article mentioned, there were a number of councillors in support of the levy who used the argument that by implementing the tax levy will increase our chances in getting provincial approval.  In fact key members of staff at MDH and Halton Healthcare Services echoed those same comments.  Judging from the Premier’s comments it doesn’t spark any light of hope as we move closer to the time where the provincial government will be making those decisions.

Recently at the Mayor’s Breakfast we had a visit from Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli (one of the key decision makers in the approval process) came to town to visit the Milton Centre for the Arts and take some time to speak at the breakfast.  In his 25 minute address to the mostly business crowd there wasn’t a mention of the need for hospital expansion in Milton.  A few individuals I spoke with after who attended the meeting were equally as puzzled as to why the much needed expansion and quite possibly the number ONE issue in the town went unaddressed.

Only time will tell if its a success or a failure.  We should find out in time (March / April 2011) if Milton receives the approval from the provincial government to move forward to the design stage of the much needed expansion of MDH.  Since 2001/2002 there have been a number of studies completed by Halton Healthcare Services (at a significant cost) to assess the need for expansion.  That’s a no brainer as many Miltonians are quite aware.  The need is there…there is no doubt of that fact.  The most recent report was completed back in 2008/2009 as to the need and viability of the expansion and nothing has been done since.  In essence, the report is sitting on an in-box somewhere at the province of Ontario.

You want community support?  We only have to turn back a couple of years when over 35,000 Miltonians, via the Friends of Milton Hospital organization collected signatures on postcards that were delivered to the Premiers office telling them of our needs.

We can do something in the meantime.  We can keep the discussion going at all levels, on this blog, on discussion forums, in the coffee shops and restaurants in town and with our MPP Ted Chudleigh.  It’s getting close to that time and if Milton isn’t approved for expansion there will be a lot of very upset residents.