Like the situation faced by numerous individuals and families over the last two years, Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) this week let it be known it has “significant cashflow concerns.”
Of course, that would be related to COVID-19 expenditures and “the delay in reimbursement by the Ministry of Health.”
The situation is outlined in a letter to city council for Monday’s (Oct. 18) meeting and signed by board chairman Larry Martin and CEO Cynthia St. John.
How many times have you heard Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott pay tribute to the province’s health units for the yeoman work undertaken during the pandemic?
Work that includes a vaccination program executed remarkably.
So how about thanking these health units by coughing up the money promised to them in the early going of the pandemic.
The tardiness has reached such a critical stage, SWPH has had to dip into cash on hand from the 2019 year-end surplus and increase its line of credit to the maximum of three million dollars from $800,000.
It has a long and storied history. Of course, the St. Thomas Elgin Memorial Centre was long the home of the St. Thomas Stars and before that, the Pests and the Barons. How many of you remember the short-lived Wildcats of the Colonial Hockey League who called Memorial Arena home for three years before morphing into the London Wildcats and then the Dayton Ice Bandits? The old barn is seeped in hockey history but its defining moment may very well be written this spring and summer. Over the past couple of weeks, the venerable facility built in 1953 has been transformed into an impressive vaccination hub where tens of thousands of area residents – certainly far more than the 2,600 or so hockey fanatics who could jam the stands and walking track for a game – will wend their way through the structure and emerge after a shot of insurance against the coronavirus. Tremendous gratitude is owed Cynthia St. John, Jaime Fletcher and the rest of the hard-working staff at Southwestern Public Health and their community partners who have ironed out every last detail to open up the vaccination clinic Monday morning to get down to the business of corralling the coronavirus.
The 70 or so minutes discussing Southwestern Public Health’s sharps program this past Monday exceeded the length of the majority of council meetings in the past year.
And, when Mayor Preston wrapped up the discussion, nothing had been resolved as to why is it the city’s responsibility to undertake disposal of discarded sharps – hundreds of thousands of them each year – when it is the health unit that dispenses them.
And, that is not a misprint. In 2019, the health unit distributed about 438,000 of them throughout its coverage area with about a third of those being returned after use.
The health unit is proposing a collaborative partnership with the city whereby it would be responsible for disposing of the sharps at an estimated annual cost of $65,000 per year.
As Coun. Joan Rymal duly noted the city is already on the hook for about $100,000 annually for sharps disposal. The three or four large bins around the city need to be cleaned out several times a week because the numbers dropped off as opposed to the twice a month the health unit feels would suffice under the partnership.
My, how words can come back around to bite you. A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about Lake Margaret attracting skaters of all ages for an afternoon of gliding across the frozen water. A scene right out of a Tim Hortons’ tribute to life in Canada. Which led to queries from several readers as to summertime use of the lake for fishing and canoeing. As the signs lakeside warn and reiterated two weeks ago by Ross Tucker, Director of Parks, Recreation and Property Management, a big negatory to those warm-weather activities. The decision to prohibit fishing in Lake Margaret was a recommendation of the 2010 Lake Margaret Environmental Plan. It came up for discussion back in April of 2017 when Coun. Steve Wookey proclaimed, “In my world, there should be fishing and canoeing.” Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Friday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies. Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector. To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.” To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading →
We opened up City Scope seven days ago by suggesting the ball was in the court of London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The comment was in reference to the decision by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health to seek new digs, not located on property owned by Farhi in the city’s west end.
Well, Farhi has rifled the ball back into this corner in convincing fashion.
He is most upset at a comment we made as to where the allegiance of members of council lie.
Specifically, my observation “any dissenting voice on city council (on a minor zoning variation needed by Family and Children’s of St. Thomas and Elgin to move into the 99 Edward St. location that is the current home of the health unit) would certainly be based on allegiance to Farhi . . . rather than to city ratepayers.
That prompted a terse email from Farhi, who asserts he had a deal in place with the health unit for his Talbot Street property.
London developer Shmuel Farhi’s accounts of the events leading up to a tentative deal with Farhi for property at the west end of Talbot Street to be the new home of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health as taken from an April 19, 2012 email to Ald. David Warden and Mayor Heather Jackson, with copies to Ald. Gord Campbell and Ald. Tom Johnston. This follows April 28,2012 discussion in City Scope which you can read here. The email is entitled Without Prejudice . . .
I am very pleased we finally had the opportunity to talk at length yesterday about the history of the Health Unit’s search for a new building.
As I told you, I met with Paul Smith, Cynthia St. John, Amy Dale and others in my office in the early fall of 2009 and we received “verbal agreement” on a design/build/lease package.
On November 5, 2009, Cynthia sent an email that included the following: “I am pleased to report that Amy will be in touch with you and Colleen to finalize the offer to lease. The board did have some specific questions about materials used in the design and such but nothing that will hold us up. Once Amy, Colleen and I have finalized the offer to lease, I have direction from my board to sign it so we are moving ahead which is great news. Thank you for your patience and availability over the last while to finalize this deal.” (Emphasis mine.)
On November 5, 2009, Kim Eitel of the Health Unit emailed the following to me: “Amy Dale will be in touch with your office Friday or Monday to finalize the “offer to lease”.” (Emphasis mine.)
Well, that didn’t take long. We hinted in this corner last week debate on a new home for Elgin St. Thomas Public Health was likely to heat up in the near future, however we didn’t expect matters to flare up in such threatening fashion over the course of seven days.
To recap, the health unit board of directors has indicated a move is in store from their current home at 99 Edward St., to a yet-to-be-determined two-acre site.
That new home will not be located on property owned by London developer Shmuel Farhi at the west end of St. Thomas on Talbot Street.
Farhi thought he had a deal with the board of directors and health unit CEO Cynthia St. John in 2009 for a 30,000 sq. ft., purpose-built structure on a long-term lease. Continue reading →