The governing bodies of the health units in St. Thomas/Elgin and Oxford county on Jan. 10 approved proceeding to the next level in merging the two bodies.
Locally, the health unit is the governing body and so municipal councils in St. Thomas and Elgin were not involved in any vote to move forward with the merger, whereas in Oxford the county serves as the governing body and municipal council had to approve a motion to proceed.
To be known as Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit, the new entity would serve approximately 204,000 residents.
A new, autonomous board would be composed of four representatives from Oxford and two each from St. Thomas and Elgin county.
The health unit boards endorsed a request to the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care for provincial one-time funding to support the planning and implementation costs of the merger over the next 12 to 18 months.
That amount is estimated at $1.7 million.
“This next step, approved by both our boards, marks the formal start of the collaboration among our three communities,” advised West Elgin Mayor Bernie Wiehle, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health board chairman.
“At the same time, as councillors and board members, we are taking a great deal of care, consideration and due diligence so that we can be confident we are offering our communities a better future for public health services,” added Oxford County Warden David Mayberry in a media release.
With the executive director and acting medical officer of health retiring in Oxford, the plan would be to have Elgin St. Thomas Public Health executive director Cynthia St. John and medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock assume those positions with the merged health unit.
Pending ministry approval, May 1 of this year is the projected date for consummation of the merger.
Still with mergers, all quiet on the utility merger front. Entegrus and St. Thomas Energy had hoped to move forward as a single entity on Jan. 1, however the Ontario Energy Board has yet to give its blessing.
THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE . . .
There is no other word to describe a visit Friday to Walnut Manor to meet resident Rick Barry. I was accompanied by reader Wayne Northcott and his wife.
Well, you could add warehousing because the situation at the Walnut Street facility owned by Vishal Chityal – who also goes by the moniker Charlie Duke – of Niagara Supportive Living in Welland is a prime example of how some of the most vulnerable members of society are attended to.
And we use that term in a very loose sense.
In no way is Rick housed at Walnut Manor through any choice of his own. He moved from a facility in the Kitchener area to St. Thomas to deal surgically with the side effects of a stroke.
Requiring the use of a walker, available accommodation for Rick was limited in St. Thomas.
His monthly income from all sources is about $1,500.
The good folks at Niagara Supportive Living charge him $1,350 per month room and board.
Let’s do the math.
Assuming a per diem of $10 for food – and we’re being very liberal here when lunch many days is peanut butter and jam sandwiches or soup so salty you might as well heat up sea water – that leaves about $1,050 rent for the privileging of live in a “private” room no bigger than the average motel room.
With no self-contained bathroom.
For readers who live in rental units, what sort of accommodation could you acquire for $1,000 a month?
I was repeatedly told by staff that Rick was free to move out if unhappy with his situation.
To where? And I was reminded several times there are facilities in St. Thomas far worse.
So if facility B is deemed infinitely inferior to Walnut Manor, should the residents of the latter be high-fiving each other on their good fortune?
The visit prompted a myriad of questions.
How can the one daytime staffer prepare three daily meals in addition to performing “light housekeeping” duties?
In a kitchen with a single, apartment-sized stove. And large swaths of paint peeling from the ceiling.
I was assured lids were placed on the pots to avoid any “what’s this paint chip doing in my soup?” complaints.
And the health unit chooses to ignore this fact on their inspections?
Two menus were posted on a bulletin board in the hallway.
According to one, some kind of soup was the fare for lunch on Friday.
When I asked a staffer should I be there at meal time would I actually see this soup, it was gently suggested I likely would not still be in the facility for the occasion.
I asked how often the monthly menu was changed and a one-word answer told the story.
Not a problem, it was suggested. The menu is rarely adhered to in any event.
Two small freezers downstairs, in what passes for a basement, appear to be the repository for much of what residents are fed.
One contained a couple dozen unappealing loaves of industrial-strength bread. Delightful after weeks of freezing. Even toasting would do little to improve the culinary appeal. Let alone the nutritional value.
The other freezer contained several bags of meat and mixed vegetables.
I sure hope the facility was near the end of its food cycle because this supply would not whet the appetite of 16 residents for more than a few days.
As suspected, all prescriptions were handled through pharmacies owned by the aforementioned Charlie Duke.
Why not use local pharmacies and build a rapport with the community?
The answer: Charlie’s pharmacies offer 24/7 service.
So a driver is going to deliver needed prescriptions in the middle of the night? From Hamilton or the Niagara region?
Now that is personalized service. Sure hope the residents of Walnut Manor appreciate this luxury.
I could go on and on.
But, it’s just too depressing.
If you find yourself in the vicinity of 57 Walnut Street at any time – and this would especially apply to members of city council – pop in for a short visit and brighten up the lives of Rick and the other residents.
And, bring a bag of fresh fruit, there’s a Foodland literally around the corner.
Rest assured, it’s not the end of the story.
Oh, and we’re still looking for volunteers to perhaps plant a community garden in the spring and apply a coat of paint here or there to add a touch of cheeriness to where the residents call home.
A TRIP TO FOREVER REMEMBER
We were unable to attend this presentation last Saturday (Jan. 6) at Royal Canadian Legion Lord Elgin Branch 41, in St. Thomas, however member Tony Bendel was good enough to pass along his conversation with 14-year-old Lauren Bogart, a Pathfinder whose trip to Vimy Ridge last year was financed in part by the Legion, the Optimist Club of St. Thomas and Lions Clubs in the region.
The presentation was a composite of approximately 2,000 photos and videos taken by Lauren on her eight-day trip to France.
The trip was in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, something Lauren – 13 at the time – researched on her own.
“I learned a bit about the war on my own and it really spiked my interest. I’m not one to really enjoy history.”
The Grade 9 St. Joe’s student approached the Legion branch regarding sponsorship, having entered three of their public speaking competitions.
Her first impression of the monument at Vimy Ridge?
“We had the privilege of going up on to the monument at Vimy. It is very moving and it is massive. In pictures you don’t really see this, but it is covered in names. And quite a few numbers because they couldn’t access the names of some of the soldiers.”
Equally memorable was the sight of craters created during the incessant shelling.
“They are just as big as they were years ago. I didn’t really want to walk on the grass because there were signs everywhere warning of explosives still underground. There were hundreds of craters.”
What really struck home for Lauren was the realization some of the soldiers were only a year or so older than her.
“If I were alive 100 years ago and I was a boy, I would be in this battle and fighting for my life. I find it just so brave what these soldiers were willing to do for the greater good that they might not even live to see.”
One of the joys of the trip was planting trees at a couple of nearby schools. The trees were Canadian sugar maples grafted with native French trees to survive in the native soil. There were the first such maple trees grown in that country.
“We met a couple of the younger students. They were talking in English to us. So there was happiness in this trip. It was a connection between the two countries with the younger generations. We also got to meet Guides and Scouts in France.”
And her advice to peers who may have a similar opportunity to travel to Vimy Ridge?
“Take it. Without thinking, sign the form and go. It’s not something I regretted doing. I would have regretted not doing it. It was so impactful. It’s going to be something I am going to forever remember. And the trees are something that are going to be there for decades or centuries, hopefully.”
Lauren’s mother, Erin, hopes some time in the near future the entire family can make the trip to see those trees. And how did she cope with her daughter leaving home for that period of time, in light of the terrorist attacks in France and Europe still a fresh memory?
“I’m not one to bubble wrap my children,” Erin stressed. “I’m incredibly proud of her.”
So refreshing to get insights such as these from young people. No doubt she held her own quite nicely in those public speaking competitions.
Toronto writer Sean Marshall wrote an analysis on the decline of intercity bus service in Ontario. This is an excerpt dealing with St. Thomas, culled from the article published Nov. 28, 2017 on the TVO website.
St. Thomas, a city of 38,000 located 25 kilometres south of London, was once an important railway centre — it even billed itself as the Railway Capital of Canada — but the last passenger train to stop there was Amtrak’s Niagara Rainbow, in 1979. At one point, residents had access to daily buses going in every direction.
During the 1980s, St. Thomas was served by three different intercity bus operators: Greyhound, Chatham Coach, and Erie Coach Lines. Several daily buses departed for London from the downtown; there were also daily buses to nearby communities such as Port Stanley, Tillsonburg, and Chatham. But by the early 2000s, most of those services had disappeared; Greyhound’s last service, a once-a-week run between London and Niagara Falls via St. Thomas and Simcoe, was cancelled in April 2010.
Aboutown, a London-based taxi and bus operator, tried to make a go of it in western Ontario, picking up routes cut by Greyhound, Coach Canada, and other local operators. Between 2011 and 2013, Aboutown Northlink operated three weekday round trips between London, St. Thomas, and Port Stanley; two daily buses between Guelph and Hamilton via McMaster; and other less frequent routes serving cities and towns like Stratford, Owen Sound, Listowel, Strathroy, and Sarnia.
At the end of 2013, though, Aboutown — which also operated airport shuttles and a fleet of taxis in London — went into receivership, and St. Thomas’s only scheduled intercity service disappeared. Both cities operate local transit services, but for those without cars, the only way to travel between St. Thomas and London is a $50 taxi ride.
You can read the full article here
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