By Robert Tuomi
(WINDSOR, ON) – Students at the University of Windsor were given the opportunity to learn the reasons a citizen advocacy group is opposing the location of a so-called Mega-Hospital. There is a plan in the works to close the city’s two acute care hospitals and merge them into one, located south of Windsor Airport.
Last summer, municipal councils in Windsor and Essex County agreed to a one per cent property tax increase to fund their share, about $200 million, of the cost of the new facility.
Known as the Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process, or CAMPP, the group has been gaining support in their efforts to encourage the re-thinking of the chosen location. The group is not against the new hospital, but is advocating for it to be built within the most densely populated area of the region; which happens to be Windsor.
Relocating out of the central area could compromise access to healthcare for some of the city’s most at-risk residents. So far, the group is having considerable success in spreading its message, as measured by its Re-Think lawn signs, which can be found at residences throughout the county.
CAMPP’s leaders are also concerned about the prospect of building a hospital in an in-serviced soybean field. It will, they say, promote urban sprawl and violate current planning priorities of the provincial government.
It is the group’s hope to reverse the location decision, if only to prevent further hollowing-out of the city’s central core, which currently is home to one of the city’s two hospitals. It is also fighting against other activities of City Council, which threaten to reduce the livability and vitality of the core.
Issues include Council’s plan to replace retail space on the main floor of a downtown garage with more parking. The fear is this will hasten the downtown’s demise by reducing the inventory of stores. In turn, this could reduce the number of people heading to the downtown.
The group is also concerned about the cost to build new infrastructure to service the mega-hospital, a burden of hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars. Locating in one of the many developed brownfield areas of the city would eliminate the need for this taxpayer burden, which will not be shared by county residents.
The public meeting held at the University was hosted by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit, student-run organization involved in many action groups and issues.
CAMPP was somewhat relieved recently when the province’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, debunked a myth circulated by the proponents for the chosen hospital location. The myth claimed the city will lose provincial funding if residents raise concerns about the proposed greenfield site.
Wynne, in a response to the group’s concerns, broadcast on CBC last month, denied the hospital’s funding is at risk. Her response has buoyed CAMPP’s members to continue with keeping up the pressure on both elected politicians and the unelected committee, which had the task of selecting the hospital location.
At this point, despite both City and County Council agreeing to the new tax, there has not been a public meeting on the location. This is something the group hopes to change.