A waiting game at STEGH while government backtracks


It’s been all quiet on the STEGH re-scoping front of late so time for an update courtesy of hospital CEO Paul Collins, in the form of a personal message sent to his “colleagues.”
Collins advises, “At the time of my last update to you on April 19th we were meeting with the Ministry Capital Branch in Toronto to discuss our STEGH project “re-scoping” approach. Our discussion with them focused on reducing the over-all cost of our project.”
Cost savings can be achieved by possibly eliminating some elements, like new hallways for movement through the existing buildings and reducing the size of new areas like the emergency department and mental health, while maintaining ministry planning and space standards, Collins suggests.

“These changes are possible only because since submitting the original plan in 2009, we have learned a great deal about how to plan and use space better,” he suggests.
“We have continued to work with the ministry on our “interim” plan to demolish the Snell building, move Ambulatory care from the first floor west wing to ground floor CCC and renovate the vacated first floor west wing, all to accommodate the new Mental Health program in this temporary space, beginning 2013.”

According to Collins, the ministry’s Capital Branch is close to completing their review of these plans and “will very shortly be in a position to approve our tendering for all of the above.”
He concludes his update with: “Our focus remains on the approval of our overall, ‘re-scoped’ project. We continue to have regular contact with the minister’s office and Capital Branch officials pursuing a satisfactory conclusion to the re-scoping issue.
“The interim plans described above and our larger redevelopment project were originally approved by Minister (Deb) Mathews as a package last August. We will need to know what the new package looks like in its totality before we can proceed with any activity.”
So, one definition of re-scoping might be: The frustrating wait time incurred while the provincial government backtracks on an election promise.

Reader Wayne Northcott, who was unsuccessful in his bid for an aldermanic seat in 2010, wonders with council’s acceptance of new electronic iPads, why are there no attempts to include equipment to allow persons with hearing impairment to hear and fully participate at council meetings or in adjacent meeting rooms?
“Recently the city delayed the distribution of garbage cans until they were fitted with Braille signs,” he points out.
“This is commendable. It is also commendable all the improvements that have been done for the physically disabled, including paratransit. So, why hasn’t council implemented programs to enable persons with hearing impairments to participate fully.
“There have been many grant opportunities, Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) and others. The Access and Awareness committee also needs to address this concern with more urgency and diligence. I have also provided research and company names to contact.”
Northcott notes he is a volunteer board member on a city committee and he is of the belief they would need to accommodate this situation as indicated in employment standards and human rights legislation.
“All personnel and board and committee members must read a document related to respecting those with disabilities,” he advises.
Wonderful intentions indeed, but now is the time for action or will it fall once again on “deaf” ears. City hall should not be the only city facility to implement technical improvements for the hearing impaired. All public facilities owned by the city including the senior centre, arena halls, etc. Let’s hope council takes a leadership role so other groups will implement change.
“So, it’s good that council accepts technology in today’s world, they should not stop there.”

Ald. Mark Cosens represents the city on several community boards including the St. Thomas Police Service board of directors and the Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health board.
So, why is it philosophically acceptable for the police to make do with what they have in renovated quarters, and the health unit gets new digs?

“I know the ministry is saying they’re going to do this, that they need to save $140,000 a year in rent . . . I don’t think they have looked around to see if they could find accommodation and, instead, they are transferring this cost to the disabled.”
Ken Brooks, executive director of the Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic warns moving an Ontario Disability Support Program contract office from St. Thomas to London will prove a hardship for area clients.

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

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