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New ER, ambulatory centre get green light at Mount Forest hospital

by Mike Robinson

MOUNT FOREST - The proposal for a new emergency room at Louise Marshall Hospital is getting support from the Ontario government.

The  province is helping to pay for a major expansion and renovation at North Wellington Health Care Alliance’s Louise Marshall Hospital which, when completed, is expected to provide area residents with better health care.

On Aug. 25 Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson announced the support from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

“The best health care is truly the best care closest to home,” Wilkinson said. “Receiving the green light today from the province means that our community can now move forward with planning for the much needed redevelopment of the emergency department and ambulatory care area at Louise Marshall Hospital.  Inspired by the generosity of this community, Ontario is proud to be a partner with the hospital in working to improve patient access to much-needed health care services. Planning and fundraising can now kick into high gear.”

North Wellington Health Care chairman Al Hodgson said, “The last big announcement [Wilkinson] participated in was when George Smitherman was Minister of Health and they came to Palmerston for the dialysis unit.”

Wilkinson quipped, “I asked what they needed. They responded ‘come here,’ and took me down the hall. They showed me they have the most caring health care professionals anywhere at this hospital. They love the hospital, they love the patients; but they don’t have the state-of-the-art tools they would like to have. They don’t have the state-of-the-art setting they need to have to provide the very best care possible.”

Wilkinson again stressed health care close to home is important. “When people are very ill, this is where they go,” he said.

Wilkinson noted the government has demonstrated health care spending is important. “In the last eight years, I believe we’ve helped redevelop 100 hospitals, built 18 new hospitals, and have a 10-year infrastructure plan. What we’re doing right now is let hospitals know where they are on the list for redevelopment.”

Wilkinson said it gives communities an answer if the province is giving approval or not to a specific project.

“I’m very pleased to announce the province has reached an agreement with the hospital here for a ‘green light’ which will result in a brand new emergency room and ambulatory centre.”

There is still considerable planning and fundraising to be done. Wilkinson  agreed it is difficult without knowing if the province is going to help the project because it provides 90% of the capital funding.

“The community picks up the other 10% and also fundraises for all the equipment,” he said.

He thanked Wellington North council and other partners for being such strong advocates for local health care.

“Our hospitals have always represented what it means when we all come together as a community.”

Wilkinson added, “Hospitals are there on the very best day of our life and on the very worst day of our life.”

He said the project will take time, and construction is unlikely to happen for another three years.

“We can’t do them all at once. There are not enough companies qualified to do that work all in one year. That is why projects are staggered,” he explained.

Projects entail design work that will help set the cost of the project, which in turn tells the community how much money will need to be raised, Wilkinson added.

“Now is the time for the community to really rally around this great project so we can provide the very best care  as close to home as possible and give our health care professionals the tools they need to care for us when we need them the most.”

Hodgson added “We know Wilkinson supports our community at a personal level as well.”

He cited Wilkinson’s for medical treatment for Jasper More, in Palmerston. That care will cost $300,000 to $1 million a year.

“It is that personal caring we really appreciate,” Hodgson said.

On behalf of the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) board chairman Joan Fisk called the announcement “wonderful news for the residents of Mount Forest and Wellington County.”

She said such an announcement is important because, “It is heart-wrenching to see an ER with two little spots.”

Fisk said the work supports valued doctors, staff and volunteers. “They are important because of their ongoing daily commitment to provide high quality, compassionate, safe and local care for our residents. Having a modern environment in which to provide emergency and ambulatory care is important to support [the hospital’s] mission.”

She appreciated the collaborative planning and work of the WWLHIN, North Wellington Health Care and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

“Local involvement is essential in making these things happen.”

Louise Marshall’s chief of staff, Simon Goodall also spoke on the need for the renovations.

Goodall said, “It’s not just the doctors and nurses who work here, but we all get involved here. Everyone is looking forward to a new emergency room, not just a changed emergency room.”

He said current working conditions are less than ideal.

“It’s small, hard to work in. It is neither patient-friendly, nor worker-friendly. So, I don’t know who to thank the most, but I can tell you how delighted we are to hear this news.”

Goodall said over the time he has worked at the hospital, there have been “quite a few false starts - which has been rather disappointing. While everyone is looking forward to this, the only thing I can add is - as long as it gets done before I retired,” he quipped.

North Wellington Health Care chief executive officer and president Jerome Quenneville said, “We are pleased with the support of our MPP John Wilkinson and the provincial government for providing the green light to move ahead with the improvement to our hospital campus in Mount Forest. The improvements will help to support our staff and serve the present and future health care needs of our community.”

Part of his job that day was to describe the scope of the project.

Quenneville said the is to work towards a construction date in 2014. The board began planning for the work in 2002-2003 with the hospital master plan. Over the years, that plan has been modified as new ingredients came into the mix, such as the dialysis unit in Palmerston.

Over time,  need for emergency room and ambulatory services in Mount Forest has continued to grow as well.

“The LHIN more recently conducted a rural review of the local catchment area which helped to provide a framework of what rural health care should look like down the road.”

Quenneville believes that was one reason the project now has the green light.

He appreciated the work of Wilkinson “to get us this far and get us on the road to where we can solve this challenge for our community.”

Even so, Quenneville said this project “represents major dollars.”

The community will pay 10% of the construction costs that are still in the development stage. “But, we also have to pay 100% of the equipment costs which go along with this type of project. I know it’s going to be a fairly hefty dollar.”

Quenneville used the example of the planning portion of the project over the next couple of years that is anticipated to be “well over $1 million. That’s just the first step in the process. The current ‘cozy’ emergency room is roughly 1,400 square feet. But current specs to serve roughly 27,000 residents suggest the emergency room should be roughly five times that size.

“That’s a major change for us, but I think it will be a real improvement in the way we are able to provide the quality of care we are known for.”

Quenneville said “We want to create an environment which not only includes the hospital part, but the care providers in delivering care to the community.

Part of that includes designing the building to ensure the right type of service is being provided.

“This is a huge step in the process for us, and I appreciate everyone’s support,” he said

Wellington North Mayor Ray Tout said, “On behalf of Wellington North Council, I am delighted to participate in today’s announcement as it will enhance security of health care in our community now and in the future. We are proud of our local health care services in Wellington North and we thank the province for this investment.”


September 2, 2011


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