On his penultimate day as president and CEO of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, Paul Collins reflected on a career that dates back to 1989, the last 15 years at the helm.
With construction crews clearly visible out the office window and Collins enjoying his final week bidding farewell to administration and staff, we asked him what was going through his mind as he drove in Thursday morning past the hustle and bustle of the Great Expansion.
Surely he must be swirling in a mix-master of emotions.
“Relief,” was the short, single-word answer.
Sensing my puzzlement he continued.
“I’m very proud of the fact that the building is going up. It took a long time to get the approval for this building. When I drive in I see it’s up, it’s real, it’s in front of me, it’s bricks and mortar and can’t be denied. And that’s why I say relief.
“And pride. I think it’s so important for this community. One of the big business case elements of putting this together was the fact if you are tangibly showing growth and change in that way, the community, I think, attaches itself more to the future of the hospital and questions about will it still be here or not be here start to dissipate.”
The multi-year project, with the new wing reaching upward on the northwest corner of the Elm Street property his crowning achievement, Collins could be forgiven for basking in the glory. Instead he was eager to dwell on the opportunities the project will create not only for the hospital but also for St. Thomas and Elgin.
“Recruitment of professionals and others externally, they like to see there has been an investment in the facility they are going to work in. So you start to attract these people and we have done a great job of attracting some great young professionals. And that is really important for the future of the hospital and the community.”
Keeping in mind, no more than a decade ago there was real concern over the health of the hospital. Would it get swallowed up in some larger conglomerate, as Collins reminded.
“I was adamant that was not going to be the case. And I think this kind of tangible change is something that is very powerful. And the other thing that is wonderful about that is the donations we’ve got here. The generosity of the community has been overwhelming.”
Proof of STEGH’s growing importance regionally was the announcement in April of this year the facility would become a district stroke centre.
“That stroke program went from all hospitals in our LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) offering some level of care to four hospitals as designated stroke centres of which this is one. That is definitely a regional relationship that we have. And I think that ability to grow from a regional perspective is going to be there for some time . . . and that strengthens the certainty of this hospital being in this community for a long time.
We’ll conclude our conversation with Collins next week.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
Following a short timeout to regroup, the combatants in the Sutherland Saga are about to come out swinging in Round 3 of the never-ending courtroom drama.
In a conversation Friday with city manager Wendell Graves, he advised a new work order has been issued to David McGee, owner of the Sutherland Press building.
“They will have to respond back to that appropriately and additionally we have appealed the court decision by the justice.”
The decision in question is Justice Gorman‘s determination the previous order issued by the city in March that demolition of the building would begin at the end of that month because of noncompliance with a property standards order was null and void because of improper delivery and lack of specificity.
The order called for immediate replacement of spalling or damaged bricks and securing the roof, which had suffered a partial collapse.
“So now there are two parallel processes moving forward,” noted Graves. “We have to keep this thing going. Who knows when the courts will hear the appeal.”
We asked Graves on the time frame associated with the new order covering the spalling bricks and the roof collapse.
“They can respond to this immediately, but they have until Dec. 15 to provide a detailed work plan and schedule to get the thing remedied and then work has to commence by the 9th of January.”
The only certainty in all of this is both sides will be back in court in the not-too-distant future.
POINT TO PONDER
In reporter Jennifer Bieman‘s story this week on a living wage for St. Thomas, it was noted the figure of $16.47 per hour is almost a dollar more than London at $15.53 – a difference Lindsay Rice, director of community programming at the YWCA, attributes to St. Thomas-Elgin’s limited rental market and lack of robust public transit.
Have members of city council – or city hall staffers for that matter – ever endured a trip aboard the sad sack vehicles that comprise the St. Thomas Transit fleet?
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.