Milton Hospital Expansion Approved!

Its been a busy day for a number of reasons. I was at the announcement today along with several of our town councillors, MPP Ted Chudleigh, Liberal candidates Indiria Naidoo Harris, Friends of Milton Hospital, doctors and nurses, and staff and volunteers. Quite emotional. I had to leave because we had a medical emergency with our cat Chester. He was in a fight on the weekend and developed a massive infection which burst today and my son called in a panic. (Chesters had his surgery and is doing ok, we’ll be picking him up soon)

I put together a few thoughts, and once things settle down at home, I’ll post more…and probably add more people to thank so I dont leave anyone out.

EDIT:  As Colin Best reminded me on the Hawthorne Villager I forgot someone important.  Regional Chair Gary Carr has also played a very strong role in getting meetings scheduled with cabinet ministers during the recent AMO Conference in London and also bringing up Milton’s needs at every possible opportunity.  Thank you Gary!!!

Here is the video from today courtesy of Brian Best (thanks for the vid…it was a historic day in Milton and I’m glad it was captured)

Today was a great day for Milton with the announcement of the hospital expansion earlier today. Many thanks to a LOT of people.

To the doctors and nurses and volunteers and staff of Milton Hospital…thank you. You were the ones under the gun over the last several years and despite everything seemingly against you, you have ALL done an amazing job.

The tears of joy I witnessed from the staff at MDH said it all.

To John Oliver and Alan Halls THANK YOU for your leadership and persistence in this matter. Everyone at Halton Healthcare Services has been a strong advocate for Milton and our needs and you have lead the charge.

To Friends of Milton Hospital, THANK YOU. Over 36,000 signatures were collected and presented to the government to let them know, THIS was the issue in town.

To my fellow council members, THANK YOU. Everytime we had the ear of a provincial minister of govt, we brought the Milton Hospital expansion to their attention. Theres a reason why Minister Deb Matthews mentioned our persistence.

To my colleagues on the Grow Milton Hospital campaign, THANK YOU! We helped in keeping the pressure up and we saw the end result in mind. Todays announcement was a result of a lot of people and the residents of Milton…THANK YOU.

There is also MPP Ted Chudleigh to thank for his years of work on this with the provincial government. John Oliver made mention in his speech of Ted’s efforts on raising awareness over the last several years, and while colourful at times, his passion for Halton residents in Milton was unwaivering. THANK YOU Ted!

Now the hard work begins. We WILL do this together and with everyones support from all sides … the job will get done.

What would you ask them?

Next week will be my first AMO (Associations of Municipalities of Ontario)Conference.  Its going to be held in London this year and goes from Sunday August 21st to Wednesday the 24th.

The conference is designed for municipal leaders from all over the province to meet and discuss issues and share knowledge and resources to help come up with solutions to problems.  There’s going to be roughly 1600 politicians running around London (sounds scary doesn’t it 🙂 ) for those days and I’m personally looking forward to a number of events that will be happening over the course of the conference.

Most importantly to me is some of the meetings that have been scheduled with provincial representatives by Regional Chair Gary Carr and ministers in the Province of Ontario.  I along with other Milton & Halton councillors will be attending these meetings.  This will provide us with an opportunity to speak directly with those ministers, mainly the Minister of Health Deb Matthews and Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli.  If those names sound familiar, you must have been reading my blog on a regular basis. 

These ministers are two of the key decision makers when it comes to getting a green light for the Milton Hospital expansion.  There have been meetings in the past, of course with no firm date or timeframe given to us, but hopefully we can “twist their arms” slightly in getting something done.  It is no secret in Milton that the expansion of the Milton District Hospital is “THE” issue in town.  

Week after week, organization after organization holds events in support of MDHF and the importance of supporting our local hospital.  Thousands of dollars has been raised for the foundation and even more will come with future events.

Regional Councillor Colin Best wrote a letter to the ministers via the Milton Canadian Champion recently outlining our concerns once again with the lack of detail in their latest “capital project projections”

If there is one issue that everyone in Milton can unite behind its the hospital.  We as elected officials in Milton have to keep up the pressure.  Its been well documented on my site about the efforts of the  Friends of Milton Hospital a few years ago and most recently the Grow Milton Hospital campaign and the numbers of signatures that have been collected and delivered to the Province of Ontario letting our voices be heard that we need that expansion to start now.

Unofficially the Town of Milton is over 90,000 in population with 100,000 in our sights.  The hospital continues to be under intense pressure to be able to deliver the health care services that Milton needs.  Beds are in short number, the nurses and doctors are doing their best but without the facilities needed to serve a growing population, it runs the risk of a disaster happening.

I’m hoping at this meeting, myself along with other Milton and Halton councillors can convince these provincial ministers (it IS a provincial election year mind you) to get off the fence and approve the expansion of Milton’s hospital.   There will also be opportunities to speak with the provincial party leaders as well during this conference (Dalton Mcguinty, Tim Hudak, Andrea Horvath) and rest assure I will be “badgering” them as well over the course of the four days.

If you have any comments or questions you would like me to pass on to the Health Minister and Minister of Infrastructure, please email me mike@mikecluett.ca and I will ask them directly when we meet with them.

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.”

Town Council Meeting June 28, 2010

Last night I attended the town council meeting in which there was to be a discussion on possible ways for the Town of Milton to set up and fund a hospital expansion reserve fund for consideration in next years budget.

The original motion can be found here for you to review.

Some of the highlited options for funding include:

  • Capital Related Items:  Redirection of Slot Revenues, GTA Pooling Funds, Debenture Financing
  • Developer Related Items:   Development Charges
  • External Revenue Generating Items:  Hydro / Hospital Generation Partnership (similar to Oakville Hydro), Parking Facility, Tax Levy.

There was a lot of discussion from a number of delegates last night talking about the pros and cons of each item.  The general consensus around the table and in the gallery was that we need to do something …now.  But aside from some passionate discussions from some councillors there really wasn’t a lot of direction from the table other than what was in the report.

According to the report, here are the next steps:

Next Steps

Continuation of Working Group and Community Consultation.  It is anticipated that the established working group would continue throughout the project to ensure:

– help develop a co-ordinated communications plan to enable the parties to consult widely with the community about the level of municipal contribution and the Local Share plan including but not limited to the various options as outlined in this report.

Reserve Fund

Staff is recommending that the establishment of a reserve fund dedicated to funding the redevelopment and expansion of Milton District Hospital be included as a recommendation in the 2011 budget for consideration.

Now when you look at the next steps, you might think not much has changed and it really hasn’t.  The goal of everyone in this town is to ensure that Milton gets what it needs from the provincial government to expand the health care services for the residents of Milton.  The very last option to be considered would be the special tax levy that would be brought on Milton taxpayers to fund the local portion of what is needed for hospital expansion.  The VERY last option.

 There were a few interesting and controversial ideas that came up including naming rights (which the town has no control over), and selling Milton Hydro.  As you will see from my presentation, I suggested we move this idea up to the regional level of government and quite possibly pool the tax base and solve everyone’s problems.  There are some risks in that as Mayor Krantz brought up “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!” but Milton’s tax base isn’t big enough.

 I also had concerns, that I didnt address in my presentation (due to 10 minute time limits) about slot revenues being used as we get them, instead of the towns current procedure of placing them in a reserve account for a year and then applying it to the capital budget.

I’ve been at the doors over the past few months and many of you have brought up slot revenues and how they should be used for the hospital fund.  Slot revenues are a gift, for the lack of a better word.  The Town of Milton gets a portion of the slot revenues every year but those funds aren’t 100% guaranteed.  They can end at any time and we cant take these revenues for granted.  So I’m cautious about relying solely on those funds.

Needless to say this isnt an issue that will go away or be solved in one meeting.

I talked about the need of not just putting strongly worded resolutions and forwarding copies of reports to provincial ministers and everyone else under the sun, but to make a concerted effort to work with other municipalities as well to put pressure on the the provincial government to change the Development Charges Act 1997.

Back then, the government changed the rules for municipalities and they were no longer allowed to use development charges (DC’s) to fund capital projects including funding local portions of the hospital.

The current government is on the record saying they wont be making changes and from reports recently other leaders are in agreement that the act shouldn’t be changed.  If this can be changed, the ability of a municipality to fund the local portion of hospital expansions becomes much easier and there is less of an impact on the taxpayer.

We need to be leaders and contact every municipal leader, every Mayor, every Councillor and get them on board to put pressure on the province to make these changes and soon.  There is an election coming up in 2011.

For those of you who were not at the meeting and cant watch on TV COGECO, here is a copy of my submission to council regarding this issue.  Feel free to comment.

Until then, I’ll see you at the doors.

Dear Gord Krantz, Mayor; Members of Town Council, Staff & Members of the public.

The purpose of my writing today is to submit my opinions on the report CORS 058-10 regarding Halton Healthcare Notice of Motion.

As a resident who has lived in Milton for over 7 years now, I along with many others have seen the need to ensure that the healthcare services for our residents are placed at the top of our priority list by the provincial government.  Outlined in the detailed staff report are many of the potential pitfalls that Halton Healthcare Services faces in getting the project started.  Many of the options that we have at our disposal are hinged on the province of Ontario coming to the realization that Milton, Canada’s fastest growing municipality for the last few years, is recognized in their long range goals for expansion.

Expansion of Milton District Hospital is not a new phenomenon whatsoever.  Just recently over half the population of Milton at the time, 35000 plus residents signed a petition to be delivered to the provincial government letting them know Milton should be a priority.  The efforts of those involved with the Friends of Milton Hospital organization should be applauded as many hours, days and weeks went into this movement to let our elected officials at the provincial level know that we need more for the residents of Milton.

I have no qualm with the goal.  I don’t think we can find anyone in our town that would disagree with the notion we need to have a bigger and better healthcare facility for Milton.  Our town is now approaching the 100,000 level and what we have right now is not enough.  This isn’t to say that the individuals, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at the Milton Hospital are doing a poor job.  They are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

The problem is the provincial government.  They need to make our town’s healthcare facility a priority and fast.  As Mr. Oliver from Halton Healthcare Services stated in the meeting on May 17th, even if they got approval that day for expansion, they are many years away from shovels in the ground.  Our hope is that the provincial government, after their budget deliberations, comes to the same conclusion that Halton Healthcare Services, the Town of Milton and the residents of Milton already know.  Approve the hospital expansion now.

I’m glad that staff also realized we need to put added pressure on the provincial government to change the Development Charges Act of 1997 and allow municipalities to raise funds for the local share of the hospital funding through development charges.  I would add that the town of Milton should urge all municipalities in Ontario to put added pressure on the province to get these changes put through.  All towns and cities in Ontario are either facing the same problems we are or will in the near future and there has to be concerted effort on behalf of ALL municipalities in the province to get these changes made.

This leads me to some concerns about where the funding will come from for the local portion that will be required to get the projects moving.  The face of health care services has changed over the last 20 years.  No longer do local hospitals serve local residents.  Hospitals serve the population in general throughout the region.  Milton residents can take advantage of services at the Burlington, Oakville and even Mississauga area hospitals for different health care related items.  My concern is with burdening the Town of Milton with raising all the funds required for the local portion.  Our tax base isn’t big enough to raise that kind of money in a fixed amount of time.

If we include the “hospital fund” as a budgeted line item for 2010, we run the risk of other high priority projects falling by the wayside and much needed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, etc being delayed.

One of the options listed in the report is to divert Milton Community Funds that were allocated to the Arts Centre to the hospital fund for the next few years.  This would add approximately $500,000 to the fund if it’s done over the next 5 years, which is a fraction of what would be needed.  Milton can do some of the fundraising for the local portion, but it would impede any future long term budgeting that the town needs to do to accommodate other projects, Boyne Survey growth, and Intensification along Main Street.

As we all know, there is immense pressure from the provincial government to grow our population.  Some examples I’ve sighted are the Boyne Survey and the intensification plans faced along Main Street.  The Town doesn’t have any indication from any other level of government on who is going to help, if any, pay for these projects.  Our budgets for the foreseeable future are going to be stretched to the limit.  Adding the addition pressure of the hospital fund, solely on the backs of the taxpayers of Milton will add further problems in long term budgeting.

This proposal should be sent to the Region of Halton for review and have the local portion of the possible expansion handled at that level.  The Town of Milton doesn’t have the resources to raise the much needed funds and if applied at the Regional level and a much greater tax base, the costs can be spread out through the region of Halton as it will be the region of Halton that will benefit from any hospital expansion.

The resources available at the regional level are greater such as debt financing, development charges and at the very last resort tax increases.  The job can get done faster and more efficiently at that level of government without putting the strain on Milton’s long term budgeting issues that we will be facing as growth continues.

I would like to urge Mayor Krantz and members of council to rethink where this motion should be coming from and with the help of our regional councillors urge Halton to look at these plans as they have greater resources to work with at this level and Milton can continue to work out its long range budget issues with regards to growth.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

 

Mike Cluett

 

905-878-1327 Phone | 647-888-9032 Cell | mike@mikecluett.ca | www.mikecluett.ca