On the same night as our last council meeting in Milton, Halton Hills Town Council was debating on a very similar situation for their community. Halton Health Care Services had made a request of HH Council to provide funding of $4.546 million to go towards their hospital renovation and expansion, including a CT scanner.
That council had deffered their decision in order to provide the community with an opportunity to send in their comments and concerns for council members to review before making a decision.
Its this decision that impresses on me the fact that when items of importance like this come up suddenly, we need to ensure the public has an opportunity to speak and let their voice be heard. When HH Council met two weeks ago, their chambers were filled with close to 200 people who took their time to speak their minds. The item of course was on the agenda and published ahead of time to provide the community with time to attend the meeting.
Im not trying to re-hash the issue but I just wanted to provide some examples of other communities who take the initiative and seek the public input to help them in making their decision. The decision they come up with might not be what some want, but at least they have had their say.
Here’s the article from their local paper on www.insidehalton.com There is more background information found here and here. You will find those articles below as well.
From the Georgetown Independent & Acton Free Press
Town extends deadline for public to comment on hospital funding
The Town of Halton Hills has extended its deadline for the public comment on a proposal that the municipality contribute $4.546 million for the Georgetown Hospital renovation and expansion.
The Town’s contribution will come from a dedicated levy on property owners— about $24/year for 10 years.
Comments will now be accepted until Friday, Feb. 25.
A hospital decision to proceed with the $12.1 million expansion without provincial funding is dependent on a favourable vote for the contribution by Town council. The project would accommodate a CT Scanner and improve the Emergency Department.
Residents can submit their comments via the Town website, www.haltonhills.caor write to Town Clerk, Town of Halton Hills, 1 Halton Hills Dr., Halton Hills, ON, L7G 5G2.
Halton Hills council will host a public meeting Monday, Jan. 24 to solicit public opinion on whether or not the Town should fund an expansion of Georgetown Hospital to the tune of $4.5 million.The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Halton Hills Civic Centre, 1 Halton Hills Drive.
At the January 10 council meeting Halton Healthcare Services formally requested financial support from the Town in the amount of $4.546 million toward a an expansion and renovation to accommodate a CT scanner at the Georgetown Hospital and increase the area of the emergency department.
Georgetown Hospital first opened its doors in 1961. Since then there has been significant growth in the town and the hospital now faces daily challenges meeting the healthcare needs of the community, particularly emergency and diagnostic imaging services.
In 2009 Halton Healthcare Services received approval from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to acquire and operate a CT scanner at the Georgetown Hospital. The existing building requires renovations to accommodate this new service.
HHS has proposed that this project be funded through funds generated by HHS as well as the community. The current projected cost of this project is $12.196 million. The Georgetown Hospital Foundation has committed $5 million, HHS $2.4 million and the Georgetown Volunteer Association $250,000.
Based on the current estimated costs, HHS has asked Town council to consider the contribution of $4.546 million.
Halton Hills Mayor Bonnette said, “We all recognize the importance of the Georgetown Hospital to our community. Making grants to hospitals while possible, is not a usual mandate of a Town.
“Other communities have given financial grants to their hospitals. Therefore in considering such a grant request, Town council wants to hear from the community because if council gives such a grant it will need to raise property taxes to do so. We hope the community will respond with comments on the Town website or in person at the council meeting on Jan. 24”.
In what is called an “extraordinary request”, Halton Healthcare Services came to Halton Hills council Monday night asking for a $4.546 million contribution to the proposed expansion and renovation of the Georgetown Hospital.
The $12.196 million project is required now in order for the 50-year-old hospital to accommodate a new CT scanner, approved but not yet purchased, because they have nowhere to put it.
“This is quite an extraordinary request of town council,” said HHS President and CEO John Oliver at Monday’s council meeting during a 30-minute presentation by hospital board of directors, staff, and doctors.
He told council that unless the hospital gets money from the Town, the project won’t happen.
“It’s your decision that is going to trigger this,” he said, recognizing that hospitals are usually reliant on provincial money to pay for construction.
But Oliver said this is an absolutely urgent project for HHS that must be done now— not in another decade.
He explained it would likely be a seven to eight year wait— and that’s not guaranteed— before the hospital would get funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care on a project of this size. Oliver said theirs and MPP Ted Arnott’s lobbying over the past few years has made little dent in the 10-year waiting queue for money at the Ministry.
Compared to similar HHS requests made to other Halton municipal councils for contributions to their hospitals, Oliver called this is a “modest” request.
But he added, “This is not my hospital… this is your hospital. I would estimate 80 to 85 per cent of your residents would be in and out of the diagnostic imaging and emergency departments during the year. They’re heavily used. … We could have stayed quiet and continued to pursue the funding from the Ministry or we could make this special request of council.”
The proposal includes a 14,000 sq. ft. addition, housing a new emergency department and a renovated 4,000 sq. ft. section of the current hospital, allowing all diagnostic equipment to be in the same section.
“No longer will people will have to walk through the bowels of the hospital to have a bone density scan done,” said Dr. Jeff Sutherland, Associate Chief of Staff. “The redevelopment of the emergency department will enable us to deal with an ever-increasing volume of emergency patients. During my career this volume has doubled without significant change in the emergency department’s layout.”
To move quicker on this project, the hospital wants to go with a joint community and HHS-funded project:
• Town of Halton Hills contributes $4.546 million
• HHS revenue and capital— $2.4M
• Georgetown Hospital Foundation launches a $5M fundraising campaign
• Georgetown Hospital Volunteer Association— $250,000.
In order to get things moving in time for a 2012 construction season, Oliver requested a Town answer before March, but Mayor Rick Bonnette intimated the CEO would have his answer before then.
Council approved a motion to host a special public meeting in conjunction with the Monday, Jan. 24 council meeting to allow members of the public to hear the hospital presentation, and Town Treasurer Ed DeSousa’s suggestions on how the Town could chip in their share. The public would be asked to provide feedback, so council can make an informed decision, said Bonnette.
The Town’s website will also include the hospital presentation made this week, and possibly a vote button and comment form.
Bonnette said the public is also welcome to e-mail their comments to all members of the council. It’s important the public knows what impact on their taxes this could mean, the mayor said.
“I think all of us around this table are behind this but it would be helpful to have public feedback,” said Ward 3 Councillor Moya Johnson. “We really need a CT scanner in this community.”
The current diagnostic services are located throughout the Georgetown Hospital. In 2010, approximately 1,500 patients were transferred from Georgetown hospital to other hospitals for CT scans. Over 500 of those were emergency patients who required a scan for diagnosis. It does not include doctor referrals for their patients in the community, but Oliver said those are significant numbers.
The Emergency Department is designed to serve 14,000 visits a year, but it is now seeing 32,800.
“The Georgetown Emergency Department is an incredibly efficient operation, which sees more patients per ER bed than any hospital in Ontario,” said Dr. Justin Busse, Director of the Emergency Department, noting the five physicians are working flat-out. No more efficiencies can be wrung out of the building and its staff and he fears their current high provincial performance on wait times and admission times will begin to deteriorate.
“I implore you for your support,” said Dr. Wei Chu, co-chief of Family Medicine, “not because we trying a build a shiny new waiting room or to show off new technology but because the redevelopment before you tonight will help us provide the essential services that the doctors and nurses need to treat our most critical and most vulnerable patients.”