instagram

Update | June 5, 2016

It was probably what every thinking person expected: the choice of where a new hospital would go would be either on Poplar Sideroad or at the existing site. It is a choice between sprawl and intensification.

At the very well attended public meeting on Tuesday May 31 at the Legion in Collingwood – about 250 people attended – representatives of the Hospital Board said three locations are under consideration:

  1. The current site with the addition of the adjacent properties
  2. The property immediately to the east of Georgian College on Poplar Sideroad; and

The Wasaga Beach site on Ramblewood Road at the west end of the town.

 

But it seems the Wasaga Beach site is included only because the Wasaga Beach Council seriously wants to capture the hospital and has offered this 25 acre site at no cost. The site can be seen from Highway 26 (where the road bends to the west just before the first round-about on the divided road leading north to Collingwood), but it has no direct access to the Highway, and in fact is located on minor streets serving a residential area. It makes no reasonable sense to put a major public institution such as a hospital in the middle of a purely residential area, far from others providing health care needs. It is not a serious option. (The June 1 consultation meeting in Wasaga Beach attracted about 150 people, but there didn’t seem to be much reaction from the crowd in terms of site options.)

There seemed to be a bias on the part of the Board to only consider sites that did not cost anything. The board stressed that it would cost money to purchase property abutting the existing site, and when someone from the audience asked about paying for land (he owned a greenfield site he was willing to sell), the hospital made it clear it didn’t like options which involved spending money to buy land. But if the facility costs $350 million, why get concerned at spending 1 per cent of that to get a good site??

The meeting was told that all presentations made by people speaking for the hospital – those presentations took slightly over an hour – will be posted on the hospital’s web site within 48 hours, see www.cgmh.on.ca. Once that happens, then you will be able to review the extensive evaluation that was done on each site, and see what kind of a new hospital facility they are thinking about.

Most of the information about the need for the new hospital was included in the Stantec report approved by the Board last September. It talks about doubling the number of beds within 20 years, from 77 to 153, as well as increasing space for operations, imaging of various kinds, and services such as chemotherapy and dialysis. Guy Chartrand, the CEO of the hospital, said that the hospital currently has 68 beds, but operates as though it has 77. On that basis the new hospital would really operate as though it had 175 beds, which is much more than just a doubling in size. Chartrand said there was pressure to build a hospital with 200 beds but they decided not to go that big.

One question which was asked by a member of the audience was what work had been done to get `bed-blockers’ out of the hospital into long term care facilities where they belong (freeing up those beds for serious hospital use) and where care is much less expensive. Chartrand said the hospital was working with its partners, but one had a sense that not much was being done in specific terms. No mention was made of anything concrete to move health care out of the hospital into better venues, even though this is apparently Ministry of Health Policy, it has been occurring on its own in Collingwood, and is certain to continue.

In short, the Board has decided a large facility is needed, as Stantec had recommended to it. The meeting was told that this new facility should only be two stories high. A member of the audience said that older people often have difficulty walking long distances in a hospital spread out like an airport, and it is easier to move up and down rather than through long corridors. A hospital representative said staff had requested no more than two floors.

When the Board looked at putting the new hospital it says it needs on the existing site, it concluded a five storey building would be needed, and the desired two storey structure could only be built if the old Home Hardware and adjacent motel sites were first purchased. It estimated the cost of building on the new site at $400 million, whereas building on the Poplar Sideroad site would only be $350 million. It said a new parking garage would be needed and that would not be paid for by the Ministry of Health.

No note had been taken of the study we had done which shows that a three storey structure could be built to the east of the existing hospital or a three-four storey structure on Hume Street for the needed clinical aspects, while renovating part of the new existing hospital for the office space needs, a solution that would save maybe $75 million. (Those plans are on this web site.)

Thus comparing the existing site even with the purchase of additional nearby properties and the Poplar Sideroad site, the hospital board seemed to favour Poplar site even though it agreed it was far away from those currently providing health care services outside of the hospital. It agreed the Poplar site would need planning approvals, but did not acknowledge that the Provincial Policy Statement issued under the Planning Act requires municipalities to intensify rather than to sprawl. Given the decision of the Collingwood Council to support building on the existing site, this could be a major hurdle for the hospital board.

Indeed it is surprising the Board paid so little heed to what the Collingwood Council has said it thinks should happen – namely build on the existing site.

Council took that position more than a month ago, and confirmed it again on May 30 apparently without dissent.

A teacher asked a question which got no good answer from the hospital. She wondered what would happen once the old hospital was demolished: she thought the site would probably sit vacant as has the old Admiral Collingwood high school site at Hume and Hurontario since it was demolished more than five years ago. She questioned whether that is the kind of community anyone wants to live in – one with a whole lot of vacant land. One didn’t have the sense that the hospital board was much interested in strengthening the community: it wants a big new hospital even if that means taking a step into sprawling suburbia.

There was no real sense of what most of those in attendance at the meeting wanted to see happen. Each person was asked to write down opinions and send them to the hospital before June 10 so the Board could make its decision by mid-June and send it off to the Ministry. Three questions were asked, and answers requested:

  1. Thoughts regarding the process, analysis and criteria used to identify and shortlist potential site options;
  2. Advice on the future location of the hospital
  3. Other questions or comments.

Comment should be emailed to redevelopment@cgmh.on.ca by June 10.

It is a pity there is only one chance for people to hear about and react to this proposal: it is complicated enough that a number of meetings are necessary to ensure the serious options are actually discussed and addressed. Given the large attendance at this meeting, there is a good chance many people would be ready to engage if the hospital would permit that kind of debate.