The redevelopment undertaking at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital was re-scoped earlier this year by the Dalton McGuinty government. However the hospital doesn’t appear to have re-scoped its financial expectations from the city/county/ratepayers.
The original capital redevelopment project came with a price tag estimated at $106 million, with a local commitment of 10% or roughly $11 million (although the hospital was seeking $13 million from the city/county/community).
The hospital board of governors has acknowledged – via a letter dated April 4, 2012 from board chairman Bruce Babcock to health minister Deb Matthews – the project cost has been reduced to $45 million.
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.
After decades of dawdling, similar in process to the consoldiated courthouse project finally underway, an open house will be held 5 p.m. Wednesday at city hall to unveil plans and cost of the new police headquarters.
The long-awaited home of the police service is to located on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre.
Ald. Dave Warden, chairman of the new building committee, says it’s an occasion to not only inform ratepayers, but demonstrate “the transparency of everything that’s going on,” and attach a price tag to the project.
Warden continues: “We’ll lay to rest all the rumours and everything else there is about the police building. We’ll have the actual cost.”
Nowhere near the $30 million sticker price being promoted by one member of council.
He was the central figure in one of the shabbiest chapters in this city’s political history.
Days prior to the 2010 municipal election, David McGee, owner of the Sutherland Press building, announced he was suing the City of St. Thomas, former mayor Cliff Barwick, St. Thomas police and other defendants for $3 million.
At the time, McGee insisted his motive was not political — even though he sent out a press release and employed an automated phone dialer to leave voice mail messages for St. Thomas households.
Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face
He also hired PR consultant Suzanne van Bommel, a local political strategist.
In a 32-page statement of claim, McGee and Sutherland Lofts Inc., were suing for punitive damages and aggravated damages, as well as “mental distress, economic interference and, specifically, loss of income” for what the claim states was “unnecessary demolition” in July 2008.
Well, Justice L.C. Leitch handed down a decision just prior to Christmas.
As to the matter of whether the claim of Sutherland Lofts Inc., be stayed or dismissed on the ground that it was without legal capacity to commence the action, Justice Leitch determined the claim must be dismissed because the limitation period had expired.
While this corner will continue to carefully scrutinize the wheeling and dealing of CEO Paul Collins and board chairman Bruce Babcock, we have nothing but praise for the doctors and staff at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
With one exception — the dizzying diagnosis from the desk of Dr. Spin over in the hospital ivory tower.
It was contained in the preamble to a media release sent our way Tuesday disclosing the employment agreements for Collins from 2007 to the present, along with a bevy of executive expense reports and minutes of board meetings.
“We believe in transparency and accountability,” stresses Babock in the missive, “and to that end, we have posted a number of documents that may be of interest to our community.”
And, this has been done in proactive fashion.
Ever since City Scope exposed the resign/re-hire shuffle orchestrated by Collins and Babcock exactly one year ago, we have tried to pry loose this information “that may be of interest to our community.”
Now that hospitals must abide by new transparency rules that took effect Jan. 1, we are able to access information that, in the past, was kept a closely guarded secret by hospitals, including St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
STEGH CEO and President Paul Collins
That includes two contracts dealing with the retirement/rehiring of CEO Paul Collins. City Scope has obtained the initial contract undertaken in June, 2010 when the sweetheart deal between the board of directors and Collins was first consummated, and the contract extension inked in October of 2011. The documents lay bare the dubious manner in which the retirement/rehiring was orchestrated and the secrecy that followed until City Scope uncovered the deal at this time last year.
It was only then that Collins and board chairman Bruce Babcock had the courtesy to announce what had transpired the previous June to hospital staff.
Budget deliberations are a critical indicator of the direction city council will follow in the coming fiscal year and the sometimes quirky priorities of our municipal representatives.
After a warm-up session Thursday, council will get down to brass tacks on Monday as they tackle Part 1 of the 2012 capital budget.
Members are being asked to approved expenditures of just over $8 million, of which $2 million will be sourced through the 2012 property tax levy, the same as 2011.
In total, the requests for capital in 2012 total $22.4 million, requiring property tax supported funding of $9.5 million.
NOTE: Posting the online edition of the Oct. 29 City Scope was intentionally delayed today to allow a rebuttal from Malcolm Hopkins, vice-president of corporate services. It can be found at the end of the column.
Based on letters to the editor over the past week or so (with another to print early next week from Malcolm Hopkins, vice-president of corporate services) the move to circle the wagons around hospital CEO Paul Collins is in high gear.
Of particular note is correspondence this week from Bryan White, a member of the STEGH transition team, who complains, “facts are being twisted or misrepresented.”
We’ll respond with what has already been stressed in this corner — any misunderstanding and misinformation has been self-inflicted by Bruce Babcock and the board of governors.
Remember, the orignial retire/rehire shuffle in June, 2010 was hidden from the public and even hospital staff until this corner shed light on it earlier this year. If the five-year extension is such wonderful news today, why the secrecy and utter contempt for the front-line hospital staff?
The hospital refers to it as a media release. Instead, Wednesday’s announcement of a new employment agreement with CEO Paul Collins is instead a feeble attempt at damage control.
The five-year pact has proven to be a poorly kept secret and follows on the heels of the hospital board’s nose-thumbing in the direction of municipal councils in St. Thomas and Elgin.
Let’s put the hospital release under the microscope.
“The board of governors approved a new, final agreement for current CEO Paul Collins.”
The key here is “final” in the hope this will deflect criticism from chairman Bruce Babcock and his board, who have taken heat for not beginning the process of finding a replacement for Collins after his retire/rehire shuffle last June.