To lose hospital is to truly become a have-not community


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Over the last couple of weeks we’ve documented the back room wheeling and dealing last summer that led to the done-in-a-flash retirement/rehiring of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital CEO Paul Collins.

The manner in which this was handled, and the lack of overwhelming consensus amongst the board of directors generated considerable response, including concern from readers on the impact of the pension shuffle on fundraising efforts in the community and at municipal council tables in St. Thomas and Elgin.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Bob McCaig checked in with City Scope to help stir the pot with the following observations.

“I am far more concerned about the long-term damage being done to our hospital by city council’s failure to make any contribution to the hospital’s capital fund, as was promised under the mayoralty of Peter Ostojic,” allows McCaig.

He goes on to note, “other municipalities throughout Ontario have ensured they have great hospitals by making a substantial commitment over a lengthy period of time. Thus, their healthcare facilities are kept modern and upgraded with needed replacements as required.”

When city council plans for new capital equipment and municipal buildings but not for our hospital, there looms a real disconnect in city government, McCaig points out.

“We seem to have money for more animal shelters than any city of our size could possibly need, but none for our hospital. Who is kidding who?”

McCaig adds, “A leading St. Thomas alderman recently declared our hospital renewal was a provincial matter and of no concern to council. Local residents, all healthcare users, can legitimately despair of any realistic time frame to fix St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.

“When the province of Ontario, seeing that there is no elected support for an upgraded hospital in our community, continues to put what scarce provincial healthcare funds they have toward others, we will have no one to blame but ourselves,” he warns.

McCaig reminds, “Aside from Central Elgin which, under the leadership of late mayor Sylvia Hofhuis, made a substantial multi-year commitment toward renewal of our community hospital, few others seem even slightly interested in this vital resource. If we were to lose our hospital, we would very soon become a truly have-not community.”

He concludes with the following call to action.

“I would urge our residents to contact council members and urge them to support St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital and work to build a better healthcare facility.”

Say what you want, McCaig is quite the community cheerleader. Sure, he ruffles feathers along the way, but in this corner that beats complacency any day.

HEALTH UNIT HOUSECLEANING?

Lingering on the health scene for a moment or two longer, you have to relish the thought of St. Thomas Alderman Dave Warden and Central Elgin Mayor Bill Walters gracing the table at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health board of directors meetings.

The two will surely continue where former Central Elgin mayor Tom Marks left off . . . asking the thorny questions and addressing such issues as the level of toxicity in the working environment at 99 Edward St.

The outcome of staff grievances last year attended to by the Ministry of Labour.

The disappearing act, once again, of board agendas and minutes from the health unit’s website. The same locale that lists Bill Aarts as board chairman.

OUR READERS WRITE

A former hospital employee, having followed the trials and tribulations of the hospital and health unit suggests, “There appears to be a huge sense of entitlement and total lack of accountability with both organizations. I too was surprised re the lack of succession planning (at STEGH).”

The area businesswoman adds, “I am concerned when I personally experience a one-year wait for cancer surgery and know many programmes we developed and implemented to promote proactive patient care have been discontinued and physio responses now are reactive instead of proactive in many areas of inpatient care.”

She signs off with the reminder, “We are all getting older and I would really like a functioning, working hospital to meet this community’s needs in the future.”

Our offer to Collins remains in effect . . . space is available here at any time for responses to these concerned supporters of the hospital.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It is a matter of interest, not income. And making sure there is no appearance of conflict.”

T-J reader Ken DeVries writes in to City Scope to challenge Ald. Mark Cosens on failing to declare a conflict of interest earlier this month when city council turned its focus to community gardens. Cosens and his wife, Brigitte, were driving forces behind last summer’s community garden on Isabel Street in St. Thomas

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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