Opinion: Heritage wins, WLMH weakened

By Mike Williscraft

It was a bumper crop of quality local news this week, I just wish it was more positive. Really, it’s a good mix ranging from unfortunate to weird.

At the unfortunate end of the scale, we have West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.

While there has been consistent very good news on the long-range planning front at several points, the day-to-day situation – mainly dealing with staffing and services – continues to get nickeled and dimed into oblivion.

The news that the midwives program is planning to relocate east to work with Niagara Health System in January is 24/7 obstetrics continues to flatline is no shock.

People have to be able to plan, to earn a living, and nothing Hamilton Health Sciences has done on the staffing front would give anyone any confidence that things will change – and that is going back now two full years.

For all that time, li’l ol’ me and a bunch of key officials and residents have waved the biggest red flag possible to warn of rocky shoals ahead. For some reason, HHS has kept a steady-as-she-goes course headed right for those rocks.

The key there, as I tried to explain when questioning HHS officials this week, is the cart is going to have to go in front of the horse at some point.

HHS cannot sit back and say they have to wait until operating room and obstetrics service volumes resume before staffing the department appropriately to accommodate said volume.

It will simply never work that way.

Unless the “Open” sign is hanging in the window, why would anyone plan to go through the facility? How can docs plan care? It’s just a non-starter.

The crux of the matter is the process which has been evident for the last year for sure – bleeding volumes to a trickle for the ORs and OBS

With all the time they had, OBS should have been ready to roll out in September when the operating rooms came back online. Not to beat a dead horse, but that didn’t happen, and attention was turned to the next deadline they set of being ready for January.

Now, nothing visibly has changed but everyone is clinging to the hope that HHS delivers on what they have promised the community and the Provincial government, a government which has repeatedly promised WLMH will not see any change in services either in the short term or in the new build – when that comes.

Adding to the frustration is, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope. I know mine are crossed.

* * * * * *

Grimsby’s Main Street East Heritage District Study gained approval from Committee of The Whole on Monday.

This is a good thing.

That said, Coun. Kevin Ritchie read out some appropriate concerns about the motion put before council – namely the boundaries of the area and the inclusion of all the properties, some clearly not appropriate, in the study area. The obvious and key thing to point out there is the process – which is clearly defined in the Ontario Heritage Act tool kit – deals with those concerns, which are specifically mentioned as items which can refined as part of the process once it is started. The boundaries can be adjusted and properties can be exempts.

These things are done with full public consultation, also part of the process.

Ritchie, and Coun. Randy Vaine were correct in their noting it would be good to have staff input. For that reason, Coun. Dorothy Bothwell suggested a friendly amendment deferring the recommendation to council’s meeting in late November to allow time for staff to comment.

Ritchie, who seconded it, would not agree. He simply did not want to see a report for a Heritage District Study come back and Bothwell’s amendment stipulated staff could report on the suggested motion which was before them.

The other key concern of those who dissented was prospective costs. On the study area, basically the main thoroughfare from downtown east to the Lincoln border, yes, it will cost a chunk. However, you either do it right or you roll over and let developers do as they please.

I am not looking for developers to be shut down, but a workable plan needs to be in order to lay a groundwork for the future.

It is also important to note Coun. Dave Kadwell put his support behind the plan. In the past, Kadwell has been a key advocate for heritage planning and lamented many of the projects previous councils had passed.

It was a very good thing to see him stay true to his historic views and get behind this. I am sure many appreciated it.

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