Region and McMaster name JBMH as preferred site for Family Health Care: is Burlington really on side for this?

 By Pepper Parr

Burlington, Ont. –Jan. 26, 2012—McMaster University has selected Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital as the preferred site for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre, the city, Halton Region, McMaster University and Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) announced jointly today.  Nice news, but notice the city of Burlington isn’t in that list of names.

Now, pay very close attention to the language used – the JBMH is their preferred site, which is a long mile away from being THE site.  The decision isn’t theirs to make – theirs being McMaster, the Region or the JBMH.

“This is an important announcement for Burlington, and demonstrates a partnership that is devoted to enhancing health care in our city,” Mayor Rick Goldring said today at the Burlington Convention Centre during his State of the City address. “Creating a teaching hospital here in Burlington will raise the quality of health care for the people of Burlington and provide a great complement to the redevelopment of Joseph Brant hospital.”

It might – but isn’t there going to be a teaching element at the new hospital being built in Oakville?  Does anyone really think that the province, who happen to be a little short of cash these days, is going to build a teaching hospital in Burlington?  Great if we can get it – but I don’t think it’s in the cards girls and boys.

The city and the region have committed $10 million to McMaster University as part of the Ron Joyce Centre, housing the DeGroote School of Business, on South Service Road.  This project included a commitment by McMaster to open a Halton McMaster Family Health Centre in downtown Burlington.

Well, McMaster has reneged on Burlington in the past (recall the plans – heck even an announcement and a sign saying parking lot # 4 on John Street was going to be the home of the McMaster/DeGroote School of Business – but somehow the buildings migrated a bit to the south and east of our downtown core.

The Oakville hospital is under construction. Their Foundation has raised more than $18 million. Staff have donated $675,000. JBMH doesn't even have a sign announcing their re-development. There is a drawing.

“One of the key initiatives in the Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan is to attract new physicians to establish medical practices in Halton,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr. “A partnership such as this will help to bring new physicians to the Region, and give more residents access to a family doctor.”

The new Oakville hospital is under construction. Hamilton has two hospitals. Is the provincial government going to pay for a large new hospital when there are hospitals less than a 15 minute drive away? Tough to do when the province admits they don't have any money. There are more than 30 other communities looking for money to build hospitals. Milton is in desperate shape.

Doctors are going to come to Halton Mr. Carr but they will be settling in at the NEW Oakville Hospital where there is already a hole in the ground with a fixed price contract signed and more than $18 million raised buy their hospital foundation – of which more than $675, 000.00 came from the staff.

McMaster anticipates using two floors, and about 15,000 square feet (1,394 square metres), of Joseph Brant as part of the Phase 1 project.  All parties hope to be operational at Joseph Brant by the end of 2013.

These guys have taken the Liberal Party resolution to allow the public sale of marijuana too seriously and are clearly setting aside some of their allowance money to buy good weed and a little less on single malt.  McMaster wants those two floors of space and if they have to jerk the public around to get it – well tough on the public.  We’re talking turf here people, not to mention budgets.

“Although we are still working through our approval process, we know this location for the family health centre will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen our ties to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital for the benefit of the hospital, the residents of Burlington and Halton and the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine,” said Dr. David Price, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. “This centre will also serve our expanding family medicine program in the Region.”

Pipe dreams, pipe dreams and terribly mis-leading.  2013? – they won’t even have a hole in the ground by then.

Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, added: “This is an important step of our move towards having learners from our medical school and many of our health science programs involved in health care throughout Halton.”

The site plan application for Phase 1 will be submitted to the city’s planning and building department in May. Public consultation will help the community better understand the plans at Joseph Brant.

Are these people assuming that the Memorandum of Understanding between the city of Burlington and the JBMH will be signed by May?  It’s been, what, five months in the making so far.  There are people on Burlington city council who don’t want as much as a dime moving out of the reserve fund that has something in excess of $4.8 million in it at the moment.  If one counts the votes on the Burlington city council – I don’t think there are enough to slip this one past the public.

If this Burlington city council gives the JBMH any of the money raised through a special tax levy and all the city has to show for it is a parking garage – every member of council is at risk of not being elected.  Burlington has put up with The Pier debacle and are going along with their Mayor and his decision to complete The Pier.  They will not go along with paying $60 million for a parking lot.

On Aug. 10, 2011, the province confirmed that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development project is approved. This project, with a budget of more $300 million, will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital.

You do recall dear readers that we were in the middle of a provincial election and the Liberals were going to say whatever they had to say to stay in office.  One of the things they said was that Burlington was going to get its hospital.  Recall too, that the Minister who was on her way to Burlington to deliver that good news didn’t make it.  She didn’t make it at the polls either – she lost her seat.

“We are very pleased to have the new Halton McMaster Family Health Centre on our hospital site,” said Dr. Dwight Prodger, Chief of Staff at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. “There will be many benefits to Burlington and area residents with the HMFHC being located here including improved access to family medicine and specialist physicians and it will also help increase the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain new physicians.”

They will be pleased as punch to get a teaching hospital settled in at the JBMH..  Using lines like “very pleased to have” suggests this is a done deal.  Go back to that headline – a teaching facility is their “preferred” location. 

The project will proceed in two Phases. The hospital will begin with an RFP process and tender on Phase 1 in 2012 and construction in 2013. Phase 2 will go through a similar process with the tender award in 2014.

This sounds a little like the early stages of The Pier – recall that there was a plan that called for a much larger pier but when the prices came in – well things got cut back a bit.  Expect lots of cutting back on this one as well.  It just might get cut right back to the tap root.

In December 2009, City Council approved a municipal contribution of $60 million for the proposed hospital redevelopment plan.  The city is working on a Memorandum of Understanding and contribution agreement with the hospital that will outline when and how Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital will receive the city funding.

This is true.  The when and how of those funds moving from the city’s bank account to the hospitals is far from settled.

The city began collecting $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011 through a special tax levy. City Council earmarked $2.4 million from previous years’ surpluses, and now has $4.8 million committed in a reserve fund earning interest. The tax levy amounts to $4 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

This is also true but it doesn’t mean that we are going to see a teaching facility at the JBMH.

The city has shown leadership in committing $60 million for the hospital redevelopment, and taxpayers have confirmed they think this money should be spent on improving our community hospital.

This too is also true – more true is that city put their money where their mouths are.  The JBMH Foundation has yet to announce that they have raised as much as a dime.  They did have a nice group photo taken.

The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment  and expansion is a $300 million-plus project. The planned civic contribution is $120 million. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign in addition to the city’s contribution of $60 million.

Nice statement but no announcement from the Hospital Foundation as to how much they have raised.  There are a number of traditional major donors who are keeping their cheque books in their pockets.  When the redevelopment of the hospital is real – they will write cheques.

A telephone survey by Ipsos Reid in November 2009 found strong public support for the hospital redevelopment project and for a municipal contribution. Ninety per cent of Burlington residents surveyed agreed the project was important, and 72 per cent of those surveyed were supportive of the project when told about the proposed $60 million municipal contribution.

So?  Can you imagine anyone saying they don’t want an improved hospital..  Burlington people are quite decent and they would see the need for the city to pay a portion.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was built in 1961. The last major update and refurbishment was more than 40 years ago. The redevelopment of the hospital is expected to include: 10 new operating rooms, a new intensive care unit, 76 new in-patient beds, an enlarged and improved cancer unit, new diagnostic imaging and laboratory areas, enlarged parking facilities; and  an expanded outpatient surgical suite.

Those enlarged parking facilities are where the Burlington tax dollars are going to go.  Someone needs to put a hobble on all this.

 

 

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