All current services to remain at WLMH, but door left ajar for long-term closure of ORs
By Mike Williscraft
Premier Doug Ford was emphatic.
“I am here today to commit to the good people of West Niagara that we are going to build you a new hospital,” Ford proclaimed last Wednesday morning.
Ford made the proclamation at a press conference held in a basement meeting room at WLMH, accompanied by Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott, Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton and Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff.
A key part of the announcement, too, was Elliott stating definitively all current services at WLMH will remain.
Ford, who spent part of the morning touring the facility and visiting with staff and patients, said the long-awaited rebuild is long overdue.
“Our government has made it a priority to end hallway healthcare,” said Ford.
“That’s why we are here today, to help the folks here in Grimsby and around West Niagara to have better access to high-quality health care they deserve.”
He credited the staff with working through difficult conditions to deliver the best possible care.
“You have the best front line health care staff. I had an opportunity to meet the nurses, the doctors the support workers here in Niagara. They are all fantastic
people but need a facility that helps you do your job the best way you can,” said Ford.
“As a first step, we will invest a half-a-million dollars to kick off the planning process. This will be the first step to building a new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital right here at this location so that these doctors, the nurses and other staff can keep delivering exceptional health care to families and people in West Niagara for generations to come.”
The $500,000 grant is to help cover the planning of the design phase of the rebuild process, noted Elliott.
She also added that an additional $8.5 million – following through on funding the previous Liberal government made but never paid out – will cover the cost of some major upgrades on HVAC and other infrastructure needed in the short term. This funding is not for the operating room renovation proposed by Hamilton Health Sciences officials.
“Our government takes the health and safety of Ontario’s patients very seriously. That’s why we are also signalling our commitment to this hospital and its service relocations that may be necessary, if any, will be part of the redevelopment process for the community and will be temporary – and I mean that,” said Elliott.
“If they even need it in the future, any plans to relocate services permanently or for a long period of time as of Jan. 1 will not be moving forward.”
Ford said the response from the community played a significant role in getting the attention of his government and credited Oosterhoff for his commitment to get something done.
“I came out here. I drove around the hospital. I talked to over 100-and-some-odd people that day and I have never seen a community so passionate about a hospital anywhere in Ontario. I’ve visited a lot of communities, a lot of hospitals and then you look at it, and the conditions that these nurses and doctors and front line health care workers work in, just walking down the hallways, this is a 75-year-old hospital,” said Ford, noting earlier he noticed all the Save & Rebuild signs as he came into town.
Since the initial announcement Oct. 22 which proposed a 27-month closure of the operating rooms at WLMH, which would also lead to the transfer of obstetrics services, HHS officials and hospital staff struck a committee to seek a work-a-round option to a possible closure.
No findings have been released as yet, but HHS officials appreciate the funds to improve conditions and help advance on the next step of the rebuild.
“HHS is thankful for the government’s support of our West Lincoln Memorial Hospital site. This funding will help fix several very important infrastructure issues at the facility and help support our committed nurses, doctors and medical staff to provide the care that the patients and families of West Niagara deserve and expect at WLMH. At the same time, we are able to keep moving forward on the planning to rebuild the site to ensure its future for decades to come,” said Rob MacIsaac, HHS president and CEO.
While Ford noted no firm time could be established as there are major steps of process to follow, he said the work could not get started fast enough for him.
“I’m looking forward to the results after we get this construction done,” he said.
For Citizens’ Action Committee co-chair Tony Joosse, the announcement is exciting, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Keep those signs on your lawn. We need to make sure those services are not transferred for any major length of time,” said Joosse.
“WLMH is open for business, so keep using our hospital and continue with donations for today and the future. The political will is finally there. That message was loud and clear, we need this rebuild without cutting or shifting any services.”