Infrastructure Minister Responds!

Here is the long awaited response from Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli via a letter to the editor in the Milton Canadian Champion. 

As the readers of my website will know, I have been demanding answers from the provincial level of government in Ontario to find out when Milton District Hospital will be expanded.  Over the last several years many groups of citizens, levels of government and Halton Healthcare services has been trying to convince the LHIN’s and the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Premier of Ontario that Milton needs to have a hospital expansion.

The statistics are endless in our arguement that something needs to have been done a long time ago and must happen now.  Halton Healthcare Services has made many presentations to council over the last while outlining the drastic need for expansion in a hospital that is designed for a population of 30,000 while Milton now is approaching 100,000.

The Friends of Milton Hospital collected over 35,000 signatures on post cards a couple of years back and delivered them to the Health Ministers office.  Recently the Grow Milton Hospital Campaign submitted a petition to Queens Park with over 6,000 signatures collected in a matter of weeks.

The Provincial government promised the over 95 plus municipalities who are in similar, if not worse situations that Milton is in a detailed 10 year capital project list after the budget this past spring.  The list was “coming soon” and I along with other Miltonians received tweets from the Premier’s press secretary saying the LHIN”s and the Ministry were “working on it” and something would be coming soon.

At the end of June, after months of promises, the provincial government released the Building Together plan outlining their priorities.  The problem is there was no detail included.  The town of Milton, the Region of Halton and for that matter every municipality has to detail their capital plans, with lists of projects, time lines, prices and how we’re going to pay for it.  Thats a requirement the Provincial Government has for municipalities.  We didn’t get a plan.  We got promises.

You cant blame myself and the other municipal leaders in this town for being disappointed and frustrated.  This has been an ongoing issue for many years and I for one am puzzled at the lack of committment the Province has for healthcare in Ontario.

The people of Milton are frustrated.  You only have to bring up the hospital in conversation and blood pressures around the room begin to rise.  At last nights town hall meeting when we discussed the hospital expansion levy and the potential expansion of MDH, residents were confused as to why nothing was being done for so long and why we as a municipality can’t do anything to speed it up.

All we are looking for Minister Chiarelli, Minister Matthews & Premier McGuinty is the green light.  We are ready to go with the plan that’s needed to help improve the delivery of health care services in Milton.  The hospital and the doctors and nurses within are stretched to the limit and even though they haven’t hit the breaking point…its getting close.  The Town of Milton would like to put a plan into place so that we can fund our portion of the hospital expansion.  We’re ready to consult with them to find the best solution possible for that funding.  We are at the starting line…waiting for the green light.

The Town of Milton along with the Region of Halton is trying to build a community where people can live, learn, work and play.  We want families to chose Milton for its great amenities, the schools, the restaurants, the places to work and learn at our education village and to be able to have a medical facility that can handle the current and future health care needs of its residents.

The time is now!  Grow Milton Hospital!

Ontario Government committed to Milton

Dear Editor:

Re: June 30 story entitled ‘Councillors disappointed with infrastructure plan.’

Milton councillors criticized Building Together, Ontario’s first ever long-term infrastructure plan, for a perceived lack of detail.

They’re correct to point out that our government must tackle the province’s infrastructure deficit. Over the last six years, the Ontario government has invested an average of $10 billion annually in infrastructure.

Our commitment to schools, hospitals and roads is clear in Halton and across Ontario. Ontario’s infrastructure investments since 2003 total $62 billion, creating 600,000 jobs — including 620 jobs in Milton. We have committed $35 billion for the first three years of Building Together to continue our work.

Needless to say, we mean business.

The Dalton McGuinty government’s record is the best indication of what we’ll do for Milton’s infrastructure. Milton is one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country. That’s why we have invested more than $34 million in dozens of infrastructure projects since 2003, including the Milton Centre for the Arts, Milton Sports Centre expansion and the widening of Tremaine Road.  

We recognize the need to plan for future growth as well. That’s why we have provided more than $4 million in growth funding to Halton Healthcare Services, and a $1.5 million planning and design grant to Milton District Hospital to help further develop its expansion proposal.

The McGuinty government is also helping municipalities build their own infrastructure by uploading municipal services. When uploading is fully implemented in 2018, Halton Region will save an estimated $22.5 million per year.

Since 2004, the McGuinty government has also transferred $2.4 million to Milton for public transit funding (formerly known as gas tax revenue). We will continue to ensure Milton gets its fair share.

Through Premier McGuinty’s mandate, our government has built, expanded, and modernized hospitals, schools, community centres and public transit across the province — creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and making a positive difference for Ontarians. Building Together is a commitment and strategic plan to continue these investments in Milton and across Ontario.

Bob Chiarelli, Infrastructure Minister, Government of Ontario

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!

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.”

Grow Milton Hospital Rally Tomorrow @ Town Hall

Just a quick reminder that the Grow Milton Hospital rally is going to be held tomorrow at Victoria Park by Milton Town Hall starting at 10AM.  The weather doesnt look like its going to cooperate with us, but we’ll play that by ear.  Dress for the weather and we should’nt be too long.

We have one of the hospital representatives speaking and Milton’s own Scott Fox will be hosting the event.  This event will be the culmination of many weeks of preparation and collecting of signatures by over 20 Milton area businesses.

On the following Monday, we will be heading down to Queen’s Park to watch Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh deliver the petition to the government and Premier Dalton McGuinty to let them know that The Time Is NOW for our hospital expansion.

If you have any questions, please let me know mike@mikecluett.ca and I hope to see you all tomorrow morning.