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Update | August 31, 2016

On Monday evening, Aug. 29, Collingwood Town Council turned down a request from the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital to support the hospital’s plan for redevelopment. Council seems strongly in favour of redeveloping the existing site – in fact it passed a motion to that effect on June 9 – rather than moving the hospital to Poplar Sideroad.

The hospital gave a presentation to Council, but it differed little from the community consultation presentations made in early June. The Board made it clear that its Facilities Planning Committee has recommended the selection of Poplar Sideroad as a site for the redeveloped hospital, but that the recommendation hasn’t as yet been approved by the Board. There was additional talk about the accolades the hospital has received from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and that the Ministry wants community alignment.

The hospital Board requested that Council pass a motion supporting the redevelopment of the hospital with no mention of the site, the structure, or anything – just support the building of a new hospital. This was a surprisingly mild request, particularly since much of the presentation focused on the question of site selection.

The Board also noted that it expects the Ministry will make a decision within two months, rather than the usual six, following the Sept. 30 submission deadline, in time for the province’s 2017-2018 budget. A Ministry team is coming to Collingwood on October 19 to discuss the proposed submission. Also, the hospital has planned a meeting with all regional mayors and deputy mayors on Sept. 6.

Bruce Clark of Hospital4Collingwood made a short deputation regarding the need for transparency with public funds – see the presentation below.

Rather than supporting the hospital’s request, Council passed a motion unanimously, asking that the Board release to Council copies of all studies done by the hospital so the studies can be peer reviewed. Council also agreed to send a copy of the full resolution to the Ministry, and decided that consideration of the board’s request would be deferred until all of the reports/studies have been provided.

The Collingwood Town Council has taken a good strong position on this issue and we are pleased with where the issue now stands.

We continue to believe the best decision on all counts – convenience for patients and family, for doctors and other health services, for senior citizen facilities, and for the taxpayer – is to build the new clinical facilities on the existing hospital site, and refurbish much of the existing hospital structure as supporting offices. Until the hospital board presents a convincing case, including the costs to taxpayers, for moving the hospital from its current site we believe that it should not be relocated.

The hospital Board says it wants community alignment. We also want community alignment, as does the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Without providing the background analysis of how decisions are being made, it is impossible for us to support the board’s current position.

 

Deputation by Bruce Clark to Collingwood Town Council Aug. 29, 2016

 

Mayor Cooper, Mr. Deputy Mayor, Councillors. My name is Bruce Clark and I am addressing you today, representing a community committee of concerned citizens called Hospital4Collingwood.ca, some of whom live in Collingwood and some in adjacent communities. Thank you for allowing me to address you with concerns we have about the transparency of the hospital Board in their decisions about the location of the new hospital.

The hospital was started by a group of public-minded women. It has a long and proud history in this community. It is the largest public employer in the region. If a new hospital is built, it will represent the largest expenditure of public funds in the region.

For all public institutions, transparency is vitally important. Having all matters aired in a public forum is the best way to ensure that we arrive at the best possible result for this vital public institution. This cannot be accomplished by having a group of well-meaning individuals making the decisions in private, and sharing only what information they deem to be important to share.

As the hospital’s own website tells us, the hospital is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The purpose of the act is to: “make public bodies more transparent and accountable by providing individuals with the right of access to government records.”

The hospital has not done so to date. In a July 7 meeting with myself and Ian Royce, another of our members, with the hospital Board chair and the hospital CEO, to which we were invited to attend for the purposes of dialogue, we were promised access to important documents.

The first is a summary of all public comments submitted to the hospital which hospital staff had organized and summarized for the hospital Board. The board subsequently declined to give us this information.

The second vital information to which we say the public is entitled is the cost to the taxpayers of Collingwood if the hospital remains in its current site or is moved to a different site. This, no doubt, will also be of concern to Council. The only public information released by the hospital to date is that the Poplar Sideroad site would cost approximately $2.2 million more than having it stay in its current site ($350,325,000 vs. $348,125,000).

However, we were told in our meeting on July 7 that building on the current site would cost millions of dollars more, not to the Ministry of Health or Ontario taxpayers, but to Collingwood taxpayers. I specifically asked the hospital Board chair to provide the details as to what the Board estimates those additional costs to be. The response was that he “would provide the differential costs between the two sites and how a portion of that cost may be shared by the town and the other three served municipalities, some or all in the form of tax revenue.”

Despite several follow-up requests, the Board has decided not to provide the public with this information. In fact, as of last Friday, the chair of the hospital Board now says that the information we are seeking will be made public once the Board approves the stage one submission to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Whenever someone promises me something and then refuses to provide it, I am left with the nagging sensation that there is a reason they don’t want the public to have this information.

Surely, the time for the public to be informed is before a decision is made not after. This impacts public funds, and the taxpayers of the region have the right to know what the approximate costs will be before recommendations are submitted to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. I urge Council to obtain this information so that informed decisions can be made.

We urge Council to help the public have access to information that we have every right to know before the horses leave the barn, not after.  Thank you.