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.”

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.

Update on Oakville’s New Hospital

Continuing on the “hospital” theme of my posts today, I read this article from Oakville Today and a conversation with John Oliver, the CEO of Halton Healthcare Services.  You will find his name familiar as HHS is also responsible for Milton District Hospital.  This article gives a good synopsis on what it took to get the new hospital approved in Oakville, the services it will be providing area residents (potentially Miltonians as well) and when we can expect it to be up and running.

I think the big difference between the new Oakville Hospital and the potential expansion of Milton District Hospital is the fact that Oakville is, as John Oliver states, “from scratch” whereas any plans for MDH will include the current facility and the surrounding lands.  There is no idea from any organization on what the potential costs of expansion would be, including the all important local portion that the Town of Milton has to raise in that 30 year period.

Depending on what the provincial government approves this coming 2011 fiscal year (or if they will approve Milton’s expansion) will decide on how much the Town of Milton will have to raise.  As you know, Milton Town Council had approved the 1% tax levy to go towards the dedicated Hospital Expansion fund for the 2011 tax year and will be looking at other ways to add funds to the balance.

It’s important for everyone to keep their eye on the ball so to speak on what needs to be done, ensure we have a proper plan in place and for Milton Town Council, in conjunction with the residents and taxpayers of Milton, find ways to raise money for this fund without continuing and or increasing this levy.  Many of the councillors around the table stated that they will be ensuring more public input on ideas and I will endeavour to make sure that happens.

Obviously this new hospital in Oakville will have some affect on what expansion MDH will get but I hope the province of Ontario realizes that something has to be done.  Its been said over and over again and it bears repeating over and over again.  The Province of Ontario needs to recognize that Milton needs SOMETHING done and soon.  The population of Milton is rapidly approaching 100,000 and our current facilities simply wont do.  The Town of Milton needs to be seen as a priority to ensure the proper delivery of healthcare services to Milton residents and the surrounding area.

Lets hope they listen…because I certainly will keep talking about it with you.

Feel free to comment.

Halton Healthcare Services President John Oliver brings community up to speed on new North Oakville hospital project

NORTH OAKVILLE TODAY – A consortium will soon be selected to build the new Oakville hospital and shovels are likely to hit the ground by the summer, but curiosity still surrounds the finer points of the ongoing process.

North Oakville Today spoke with President and CEO of Halton Healthcare Services (HHS) John Oliver to get further insight into one of the most important projects ever undertaken by this community.

The new Oakville hospital, which is slated for a 50-acre site at the northwest corner of Third Line and Dundas Street, is expected to open its doors in early 2015.

“We’re building a hospital from scratch,” said Oliver. “We’re not doing a renovation, we’re not doing an add-on. We’re on a green field site and we have an opportunity to create a facility that in all aspects is modern and designed with the most recent thinking in hospital design.”

The project is being funded through the province’s Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model.

Under the model, a private consortium of companies and investors will be responsible for the design, construction, financing and maintenance of the hospital.

The hospital is then paid for by the province and stakeholders over a 30-year period, similar to a mortgage.

According to Oliver, the AFP model transfers much of the construction risk to private sector partners.

The AFP model requires a local share contribution towards the cost of the hospital, which totals $530 million: $60 million from the Oakville Hospital Capital Campaign, $270 from Halton Healthcare Services and up to $200 million from the Town of Oakville.

In order to protect the competitive bidding process, an estimated total cost of the hospital has never been released.

With the February 25 request for proposal approval date fast approaching, Oliver said that the foremost factor being considered when selecting one of three bidding consortia is how closely the bids adhere to HHS’s building specifications.

“We have issued what are called project specific output specs,” said Oliver. “We are looking for the bids to be compliant and aligned with our desired project descriptors.”

Oliver said that cost issues are also being considered as well as construction management and building maintenance.

“We will have an agreement where for 30 years after we take occupancy, the building will be maintained [by the consortium],” he said.

According to Oliver, after the request for proposal close date, there will be a period of bid evaluations with Infrastructure Ontario ending in mid to late May. Only after that will the successful bidder be announced.

“Soon after the preferred proponent is named, we’ll probably begin early work on the site,” said Oliver. “There are things that have to get going with access roads and storm water management and all the grading and the developments needed to have the infrastructure to sustain a major capital project. There’ll be site work likely in late May, early June.”

Oliver said that at the same time the preliminary site work is taking place, HHS should be working towards commercial and financial close, which involves coming to a final agreement with the approved consortium. He said commercial and financial close is expected by mid-summer.

“Then the actual site construction work can begin immediately after that so we would anticipate that to be in late July or early August,” he said.

When the facility opens, patients will be transferred to the new Oakville hospital from Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. The number of beds at the new hospital will be increased over time to 457 beds with space to grow to 602 beds in the future.

Oliver said right now, HHS is working on being operational ready for 2015.

“It’s a mountain and you scale a mountain one day at a time,” he said, “and we’re starting four and a half years in advance and we will be very ready to deliver care when we open those doors.”

The transition into a new hospital seems like a daunting task but Oliver said that HHS is looking into other hospitals that have successfully made the move.

“Any lessons we can learn on being operational ready we are picking up from some very recent experiences locally,” he said.

Oliver said that the vision for the new Oakville hospital is meant to offer more than just additional rooms, newer equipment and more staff. It will also offer a comfortable environment in which to heal.

“There is a lot of evidence,” said Oliver, “that environments that are warm, supportive, that are reflective of the environment that you live in…are conducive to healing and much more supportive for families and for staff that are staying with patients as well. So that’s the kind of environment we’re after.

“Almost all areas are designed now to make sure that we have light wells and areas where people can feel connected to the landscape and connected to nature through the building.”

Oliver said that HHS will be more ouspoken once the request for proposal analysis is completed in May. When the final design is approvedshortly there after, Oakville will get its first glimpse into what the new hospital will actually look like when the doors open in 2015.

“This is a much-needed project for Oakville,” he said. “It’s a very exciting.”

 For information about the new Oakville hospital, visit www.newoakvillehosptial.com

Milton’s Budget Passes & Levy With A Twist

Just an FYI… according to reports today CPI rose to 2.4% in December.  Rate of increase in town portion of budget spending was 3.58% (add in 1.0% levy) for 4.58%. 

http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2011/01/25/inflation-canada.html

Last night council continued its marathon discussions on the budget and other items almost until the wee hours of the morning.  Since taking office we have yet to finish a meeting before 11pm.  Tiring pace to say the least, but that’s why we were elected.

In addition to debating the 1% tax levy for hospital expansion, the meeting included a number of pubic sessions for input on future developments around town.  One of the contentious items was looking at the zoning for the north side of Main Street near Thompson Road.  Business owners made a pitch to council, of which some of it made sense, about allowing certain types of zoning for that area that will help them decrease their vacancy rates and have more businesses in town.  They are right.  This area is the new gateway to the community with the Milton Centre for the Arts and the Superstore at that intersection.  The zoning that is being allowed is still quite flexible but staff and council still had concerns when it comes to the types of zoning and the potential parking issues that might arise.  Its not a dead end for the business owners, as they can still apply for zoning changes.  The big thing that had to be considered is the development of the Main Street underpass and what the area will look like in the future.  Thats getting underway this year and next…hopefully it wont take too long.  My personal opinion is that this underpass should have already been started so that when its complete it can compliment the Arts Centre.  As it stands now, we might have some traffic issues from people on the west side of town coming towards that area using residential streets like Woodward, Nippising and Childs to get to the Arts Centre…but that’s a debate for another day.

After all the public meetings were complete, council moved to discuss “ITEM 18” from the budget which was the 1% tax levy for the hospital expansion.  Many of the same arguments were brought up again both on the pro and against sides of the arguement so really nothing new was discussed.  In the end, via a recorded vote, the results were the same.

In Favour of the 1% tax levy:  Clr Di Lorenzo, Hamid, Best, Lunau, Barkley, Huffman.

Against the 1% tax levy:  Clr Cluett, Nelson, Lambert, Malbouef and Mayor Krantz.

We could continue to debate this forever on the “how” we get the funding until sometime next year.  The points that I made were simple.  We needed to have public input on this item as we HAVE the opportunity to do so.  Some have stated taxes only as a last resort, but I honestly don’t feel that we’re there yet.  We have the time to garner input and support from the public on this and move forward in less of a fractured way.  The Chief of Staff at MDH along with the COO of MDH made presentations last night in support as they feel a fund is “critical” towards getting approval from the province.

The original staff motion in this budget was to have $100,000 from the community fund (funded by slot revenues and not tax dollars) placed into the reserve fund as a deposit to get it going and show the province we’ve put hard dollars into place.  The tax levy motion introduced by Councillor Lunau replaced that $100,000 with the 1% on taxpayers bills.  That $100,000 was later put back into the community fund through a notice of motion from Councillor Huffman to start a “matching” program with Milton service clubs.

An interesting development occurred last night when the Town Clerk informed us that the wording of the motion went against the municipal act.  You cant initiate a tax levy on just one taxpayer.  It has to be included in everyone’s tax bills including commercial, industrial and retail taxpayers.  This complicates the issue even more as many of the businesses in town (downtown Milton etc) are small businesses.  I know many of these people and they find it quite difficult to stay afloat and now we have added an additional 1% to their tax bill as well.  Again, without any consultation with the public whatsoever.

The reality is that the tax is here.  I did my best to convince my colleagues that it wasn’t the right thing to do right now.  We have more time and we should use it to get the job done right and involve the people in the decision making process.  The job now is to work with residents to educate them on whats going on in this process with the province, and what we will have to do in the future to fund this hospital expansion fund….without going BACK into taxpayers pockets with this levy.

I’d like to thank everyone over the past week who has emailed, called or personally spoken with me on this issue.  Some of us will disagree with what happened but an overwhelming number of you were in support of the public consultation process and wish we did more.  I promise I will do my best in the coming weeks and months to help that process along so that way we don’t have any more surprises like this and we work together as a town and most importantly as a unified council to get the desired result.  Only time will tell if it’ll work of if it does, we wont really know if by doing this it made the difference.  Milton is in competition with about 55 other municipalities who are struggling to do the right thing as well.  They are raising money…a lot more than we are. 

The need is there for Milton.  That’s not in doubt.  I will continue to pressure local officials to help me in convincing the province to recognize Milton, Canada’s fastest growing municipality, is in dire need of expansion of any kind to help improve the quality of health care services in town.  Whatever services our new hospital will have … we need something now.

Lets work together now to ensure that happens.

Council to Debate Hospital Tax Levy

From the Milton Canadian Champion May 20, 2010 By Tim Foran

Councillors to debate hospital tax levy

Milton council will debate whether to provide cash, perhaps through a dedicated tax levy, to assist Halton Healthcare Services Corporation’s as yet unapproved plans to expand Milton District Hospital.

At Monday’s council session, Ward 3 Councillor Cindy Lunau introduced a notice of motion, which Ward 4 Councillor Paul Scherer indicated he would second, stating the Town would “endeavour” to help HHS cover its share of the costs to redevelop the half-century-old hospital, which hasn’t undergone a major expansion since the mid-1980s.

The motion states the Town would research and identify potential funding mechanisms including the possibility of including a special property tax levy beginning next year.  Council will debate and vote on the motion at the June 28 council session. Lunau said she wanted the long lead time for the community to have an opportunity to provide feedback and plan to attend the session.

Under Provincial funding guidelines that began in June, 2006, Ontario pays for all of the planning costs and 90 per cent of the bricks and mortar for hospital capital projects. Previously, most capital cost share rates varied from 50 to 80 per cent depending on the project, the Province stated at the time.

However, the hospital corporation is still responsible for the remaining 10 per cent of construction costs along with covering the full cost of building revenue-generating facilities such as cafeterias, retail areas and parking lots as well as the medical equipment inside the hospital.

In total, depending on the equipment a hospital needs, that means the Province will cover around 70 per cent of the total project costs, with the hospital corporation paying the remaining portion, dubbed the local share.

The hospital has three ways to pay that local share: its own revenues from, for example, parking lot fees or stores; fundraising done by the Milton District Hospital Foundation; and through financial assistance from municipalities.

The problem Milton council tried to wrap its head around Monday is that HHS won’t provide the municipality with an estimate right now of how much money it would need.  “At the end of the day, if we put too much (money) away, that’s fine,” Scherer said to HHS President John Oliver during Monday’s council session.  “But we need a starting point.”

Oliver said he understood council’s frustration but he doesn’t want to float a dollar figure that would inevitably turn out to be wrong years later after more detailed planning has taken place.

The hospital provided a preliminary cost estimate when it presented its business case for the expansion to the Ministry of Health in September, 2008 but Oliver said after the council meeting that number is already out of date and he doesn’t wish to release it.

“It’s not just inflation, the original size and scope has evolved from the original business case,” he explained. He said he also doesn’t want to jeopardize a competitive bidding process by leaking expected total costs.

However, Oliver did provide council with a benchmark for comparison when he said the redevelopment planned for Milton’s hospital is at least as big as the one proposed for Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. The first phase of the redevelopment of Jo Brant is projected to cost $312 million, with the local share pegged at $120 million. In December, Burlington’s city council committed to covering half of that cost, or $60 million, and has already started a dedicated property tax levy this year. The City of Vaughan last year committed $80 million to a proposed new hospital for its community. Both projects are also unapproved and are in competition with the Milton hospital expansion to get on the Province’s next 10-year list of infrastructure projects, to be released next year, likely as part of the 2011 budget.

However, the competition is not just among those three hospitals. The Ministry of Health is currently prioritizing at least 50 other proposed hospital projects before submitting its list of requests to the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, which will ultimately decide on the 10-year capital plan.

Other ministries are also prioritizing their own lists of proposed capital projects, one of which includes the proposed Wilfrid Laurier University campus in Milton. That prioritization is expected to take place over the next three months, said Jason Grier, a professional lobbyist from Hill and Knowlton working on behalf of HHS.

One of the things the Ministry of Health will be looking for during this time when prioritizing projects is whether the hospital corporation has a firm plan to meet its local share commitments, Grier said after council Monday.

“They don’t want to move forward on projects that aren’t going to have that local share commitment because then the project isn’t going to happen,” explained Grier, who served as executive assistant to George Smitherman when he was health minister in the provincial government.

Oliver told council it would help the hospital if the Town made a firm commitment of financial support. “I don’t know if you need to put a dollar figure behind it right now.”