Milton Champion Coverage of Hospital Expansion Announcement

I’m still giddy (yes I said giddy) with excitement everytime I read something about the expansion at Milton District Hospital.  Here is the article from today’s Milton Canadian Champion (by Christina Commisso) with coverage of the historic announcement.

Hospital expansion approved

Completion expected in late 2015 or early 2016

Hugs, high-fives and tears were aplenty Thursday morning, as Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews announced Milton’s hospital has been given the long-awaited green light for a massive expansion.

Milton District Hospital (MDH) will triple in size following a 320,000 square-foot addition that should be completed by late 2015 or early 2016.

“The support is unanimous. We have people from all political parties who are here today saying yes, this is the right decision. I’m pleased that all of us together have gotten where we are today,” said Matthews, as the room erupted in applause.

Pointing to an outpouring of community support that has  surrounded the MDH expansion, the Liberal MPP said hospitals are the heart and soul of a community, “and no where is that more true than right here in Milton. You should change the town’s motto to ‘where we don’t take no for an answer.’”

Matthews re-iterated that the expansion is poised to move full-steam ahead. “I want to be very clear this money has been allocated. It is in our fiscal plan. It has gone through our treasury board. All of the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed. This money is part of our infrastructure plan.”

The expansion will include a new emergency department to accommodate 45,500 visits a year. Currently the department can handle 30,000 visits. The addition of an MRI machine and chemotherapy services will more than triple the size of the hospital’s diagnostic imaging department. A new maternal child-care ward will include 17 post-partum beds, up from the current eight, and the intensive care unit will see 10 beds, up from six.

Also in the plans are two new medical surgical in-patient units with capacity for 72 patients and expanded operating suites, and a post-anesthetic care unit that will accommodate 8,400 surgeries a year — a 70 per cent increase over the department’s current capacity.

Eighty per cent of the rooms will be single patient to enhance infection control.

Halton Healthcare Services (HHS) CEO John Oliver said construction should be complete by 2015/16, about a year after the new Oakville hospital is planned for completion.

“Both hospitals will be under construction at the same time and one will open right after the other. We’re going to make up for lost time in Milton,” said Oliver to an elated crowd.

He said detailed planning with hospital staff will begin immediately, along with discussions with the hospital foundation and the Town regarding the local share of the construction costs plus the entire cost of equipping and furnishing the hospital.

Asked about the cost of the expansion, Oliver said for the time being a number won’t be released to the public. “We learned from the Oakville project when you put a number out, it changes…we’ll talk about the kinds of services and the number of beds, but we won’t release a number to the public.”

Milton Mayor Gord Krantz said at this point in time he has no idea what kind of money the Town will be on the hook for in terms of the local share.

“This was only the start and now some of the grunt work needs to be done and finances is going to be a big part of that,” he said. “I have a sneaking suspicion the community is going to buy into this and fundraising is going to have to be a definite part of it.”

The recently-announced Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital expansion, pegged at $312 million, is looking for $120 million from the Burlington community. The Town of Oakville has committed up to $130 million toward the construction of the new Dundas Street and Third Line hospital, and the Oakville Hospital Foundation is raising $60 million for the community share.

Asked if the hospital’s local share will be part of the Town’s 2012 budget — which is already well underway — Milton’s CAO Mario Belvedere said, “We will do what needs to be done to support this program and we can work on amending whatever needs to be done.”

He said he plans to meet with Oliver within the next few weeks to discuss numbers, adding that the scope and speed of the expansion is “well beyond our imagination.”

Halton’s Conservative MPP Ted Chudleigh, who has advocated for a Milton hospital expansion for a number of years, joked, “It’s such a good day, I don’t think I can say anything bad about the Liberals.

“This project is going from functional planning to completion in one step, that’s unprecedented in Ontario.”

Asked how the expansion — which several Milton residents and councillors dubbed the number one election issue — changes the dynamics of the October 6 provincial election, Chudleigh said, “It becomes less of an issue. It comes off the table and now it’s a matter of making it happen.”

Local provincial Liberal candidate Indira Naidoo-Harris said Thursday was a day for celebration.

“It’s a wonderful day for Halton and Milton. I am thrilled the minister has been listening to our community.”

Several members of the Friends of Milton Hospital and Grow Milton Hospital groups were on hand for the announcement and said the days of gathering about 40,000 signatures (during two community campaigns) in support of an expansion — in rain or shine — has finally paid off.

“We needed care at all levels,” said Friends of Milton Hospital co-chair and former nurse Cari Kovachik-MacNeil. “Milton’s emergency has always been known for how good it was, but then where do the patients go from here when the hospital is in gridlock. Now they can stay here, in their own hometown.”

Disappointment at Health Ministers Visit to Milton

This marks the third time in a year where  a “high profile” member of the Ontario government has visited Milton to make a speech and failed to acknowledge the importance of the expansion of Milton District Hospital. 

Earlier this year at the Mayors Breakfast for the Milton Chamber of Commerce, Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli also spoke at lengths about what the McGuinty government has done, but failed to even mention the number one issue in Milton. 

Before that Premier Dalton McGuinty was asked directly about Milton’s chances for hospital expansion given the fact that council had approved at 1% tax levy for the hospital expansion reserve account and he replied with this…

“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.”

Now we have the other minister responsible for making the decision on the expansion of MDH failing to mention it.

Disappointment doesnt cover what the people of Milton are thinking right now.

Kathy Yanchus, CANADIAN CHAMPION STAFF

It was what Ontario Health and Longterm Care Minister Deb Matthews didn’t say that sparked discussion following her quick departure from a shortened version of her ‘Women and Politics’ speech, hosted Wednesday morning by Liberal provincial candidate Indira Naidoo-Harris.

Disappointment was expressed among the small group assembled at Casa Americo Italian Restaurant that Matthews didn’t touch on some of the subjects they had hoped, including the proposed Milton District Hospital (MDH) expansion.

As Matthews was hastened into her waiting vehicle by ministry staff to address a matter of urgency in Question Period, Naidoo-Harris assured those in attendance that she had invited the minister to tour MDH in the near future and mentioned the 18 new hospitals built since the Liberals took office in 2003.

With a slideshow operating behind her, Matthews introduced herself as a mother and grandmother, factors, she said, that influence her decisions as head of one of the largest ministries in the provincial government and one of the many influential women in the Liberal caucus. She interspersed talk about government costs and savings and initiatives with comments about the influence and values women bring to their positions.

“Women bring different experiences, different priorities to the job,” she said. “We want more women and are absolutely committed to bringing more women into caucus.”

When she looks into the eyes of her four grandchildren, Matthews said she sees not just their potential, but that of all Ontario children, and it’s the government’s job to ensure the province’s youth have what they need to reach that potential.

“Education is the key to unlocking that potential,” said Matthews.

She identified the Liberals’ full day kindergarten initiative as a courageous one in tough economic times. Currently there are 35,000 children enrolled in full day kindergarten and the plan is to implement it into all Ontario schools by 2014. So far, said Matthews, the children enrolled  are “very much up to the job” and it represents a savings in daycare costs to parents.

Decreasing high school dropout rates and increasing post-secondary enrollment represent tremendous improvements in education in the province, she said.

“And we wouldn’t be talking about poverty reduction if not for women in caucus,” said Matthews, crediting Liberal tax changes and an increase to the minimum wage for boosting the incomes of struggling single moms working fulltime. “This takes us back to education; we have to ensure children get the education they need to break the cycle of poverty.

“If we didn’t have a strong caucus of women we wouldn’t have this kind of social justice.”

Shaving hundreds of millions off the cost of drugs, increasing Ontarians access to primary care, adding more long-term care beds and improving seniors’ programs to allow them to stay in their own homes longer are other successful and ongoing Liberal initiatives on her ministry’s agenda, said Matthews. “Maybe it takes a woman to understand you have to shake things up and do what’s right.”