Why does this promise come with a bitter after-taste?


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Re-scope is a word that was totally alien to the average vocabulary prior to delivery of the provincial budget at the end of March.
In the days afterward, the administration at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, our elected representatives and area residents puzzled over the implications of re-scoping on the hospital’s redevelopment plans.
Well, puzzle no longer.
This corner has determined the definition of re-scope as follows: the massive slashing of funding for a project promised just weeks before an election when the electorate doesn’t deliver.
And we mean ruthless cutting and hacking.

The McGuinty government supposedly ear-marked an estimated $130 million for an extensive redevelopment at STEGH. At least that’s what Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews promised voters last fall as an enticement to vote Liberal in the fall election.
The electorate was under-whelmed with Lori Baldwin-Sands and Elgin-Middlesex-London fell to the Tories.

And, in one of the great post-election disappearing acts, the administration at STEGH is now expected to get by on $45 million to proceed with the 15 mental health bed component of the project and a re-scoping of the rest of the redevelopment.
That is the information conveyed to the hospital immediately following the budget announcement.
This turn of events prompted a letter to Matthews, dated April 4, from STEGH board chairman Bruce Babcock and STEGH Foundation chairman Steve Knipe demanding an explanation.
“It is STEGH’s understanding from a conversation with ministry officials that the mental health bridging plan must continue to meet planned milestones, but that everything else must be re-planned to identify what can be afforded with the new ($45 million) limit,” the letter states.
“Surprisingly, that new limit now also includes the mental health bridging plan costs that have always been outside of the main project,” the correspondence continues.
“We are unclear at this time to what degree our bridging plan timetable will be affected.”
To muddy the waters further, Dalton McGuinty told QMI Agency on Tuesday the province will still deliver on an interim 15-bed acute mental health unit at the hospital which is expected to take on patients next May.
That includes the capital costs of the temporary beds and an increase in the hospital’s operating funds to compensate for the extra services and staff.
But, the province also promised to fund a permanent mental health unit as part of STEGH’s redevelopment. This was to open by early 2017 at the latest and would also house a revamped emergency unit and surgical suite.
Is all of this expected to fall within the $45 million limit?
McGuinty tip-toed around this on his visit to London and would only say expect a letter from Matthews with more details.
In the April 4 letter, Messrs. Babcock and Knipe requested a meeting with the health minister to address the hospital’s “grave concerns about the impact of this new approach to planning, for the community, for our patients and for our hospital.”
A joyous announcement last August has now left this community with the bitter taste of disappointment.
Welcome to the world of political opportunism and unfulfilled expectations.

LET’S BE UP FRONT
Norm Toogood’s letter to the Times-Journal encourages public input on whether to renovate the existing police station or construct a new facility.
His web poll is a good idea.
Too bad the information contained on the site is not entirely upfront and conveniently withholds key facts.
We called Toogood to determine how the cost of a new building has somehow jumped from $19 million to $26.4 million, in contrast to the estimated $6.4 million to renovate the existing HQ.
His inflated figure includes the cost of financing the project, and the final tally is included in the Rylett Engineering report discussed at council last month.
No explanation as to how this report determined the terms of financing and at what rate.
Toogood fails to advise visitors to the website that Rylett was involved with construction of the current police facility and, of course, would be pushing for renovations of their building.
Smells like a conflict of interest.
We understand one member of council is a driving force behind Toogood’s website. Why is it that this alderman did not apply the same method of accounting, i.e. construction cost plus financing charges, when promoting construction of the Timken Centre?
Does the cost of renovations include finance charges? If not, this is a case of comparing apples to oranges.
On the contentious issue of options for a police HQ, do ratepayers a favour and deal in all of the facts and not just those that support one personal agenda.
We endured enough of that legerdemain during the protracted twin-pad arena debate.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I find it a bit strange that she’s thinking about gerrymandering, and taking a piece of the riding she wants.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MP Joe Preston scoffs at the motive behind London-Fanshawe NDP MP Irene Mathyssen’s desire to realign the EML boundaries to liberate London from the riding as it now exists.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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