(WINDSOR, ON) – In a surprise announcement at last night’s Town Hall meeting in Windsor, Premier Kathleen Wynne made it clear that the location for a new hospital to serve the region is not finalized. Opposition has been growing to the proposal to demolish Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus and to re-purpose a portion of its Ouellette Campus into a mental health facility.
Both acute care hospitals were planned to be merged into a new facility, dubbed a “Mega Hospital,” in a soybean field south of the local airport, on County Road 42. Although the site was chosen by a non-elected committee looking for the best location for a replacement hospital, it limited its work to only considering properties on the market.
At this point, no public discussion has been held on the location.
At a city council meeting on April 26, 2016, to approve a 1 per cent tax levy, to cover the city’s cost of the hospital, questions about the planned location were prohibited by the mayor, Drew Dilkens. He told some 30 delegations that where the hospital would be built was not going to be discussed.
Apparently, such a position goes against the premier’s view of how hospitals are created. This is what Philippa von Ziegenwiedt, spokesperson for the Citizens for an Accountable Mega-hospital Planning Process, found out in Wynne’s response to a question on the location.
Von Ziegenwiedt brought a number of issues to the premier including the availability of considerable land within the developed area of the city to house the new facility. Current estimates suggest it could cost Windsor taxpayers more than $800 million to pay for the needed infrastructure to service building in what is basically a rural area.
It would also eliminate a large tract of agricultural land and encourage urban sprawl.
According to Wynne, decisions on where new hospitals are built must be community based. It is at this point she confirmed the promoted location for Windsor’s hospital isn’t a done deal.
Wynne emphasized the importance of local discussion, which von Ziegenwiedt said has been largely missing in the process. Wynne was also informed of the lack of transparency on the part of Windsor Regional Hospital and the Local Health Integration Network.
Both have been reluctant to discuss related issues, which suggests the selected location is not in the best interests of the city and possibly the region.
For one, it could result in the loss of thousands of jobs in Windsor’s faltering core and promote more urban decay by hollowing out the downtown. It is also feared that medical offices and services would most likely move closer to the new hospital.
CAMPP has been trying, without luck since July, to have a meeting with LHIN representatives. Apparently things are changing, on a number of fronts.
Just before the arrival of Wynne in the city, CAMPP was called by the LHIN and a discussion is expected to be held in a matter of weeks.
On another front, a plan to build a costly Urgent Care Centre on the old Grace Hospital site might now be off the table. Although often described as an emergency room, it would actually operate much like a medical clinic, have restricted hours, and no overnight stays.
Although, von Ziegenwiedt described the current developments on the location as “up in the air,” she is slightly more confident that there will be a full airing of her group’s concerns and those of others in the region.
One of the most significant is for the county having a turn at hosting a hospital. The actual farm that was selected is on land Windsor annexed from Tecumseh. Despite it being held out as desirable for county residents, there has yet to be a study to validate the claim nor a study to determine the impact the relocation would have on the city’s most populated area.