County council last month decided to repeal its policy on how it funds hospitals, and stated it will not fund medical centres.
After some debate, council voted to provide no further funding for hospital capital projects beyond its current obligations.
Councillor Lou Maieron said that when the county decided to fund 20% of the bricks and mortar (capital costs) for a hospital, the province was paying 50%. Now, he said, it is paying 90%.
Warden John Green told him he is “partially right” and that the eligibility is 90%, but on a $100-million hospital, organizers can expect only $70-million from the province due to the way the funding has changed.
Maieron said the policy is not fair, and the county is funding for such things as flower gardens.
That upset Green, who said that anyone attending the administration, finance, and personnel committee meeting, where the recommendation was proposed, knows, “It’s not about frills. To suggest I would build a garden … ”
Maieron said he was not saying that.
But Green noted, “You just did.”
Maieron said the county’s maximum to Groves Hospital is $5-million.
Councillor Brad Whitcombe said council was repealing its old policy and would have to consider new policy in the new year.
Green said, “Exactly.”
Councillor Bob Wilson suggested that no matter how often the county says it is getting out of the business of building hospitals, it will be forced to continue to do exactly that.
“We decided once never to do it again. Then, we did it. We will fund hospitals from this chamber forever. The province can’t do it.”
Councillor Lynda White agreed. When county council first agreed to support renovations at Groves Hospital in Fergus, it never considered local medical centres.
Wilson said the county should be setting aside money every year for hospitals, because in the next ten years, Guelph General Hospital will need more beds and more staff.
Green explained that in order to make its funding work, the county will have to change its criteria so it matches what the province wants.
Maieron said he thought the motion meant getting out of the hospital business. He represents the Erin ward, and man in his area use hospitals, in Orangeville and Georgetown, outside of Wellington.
Council accepted an amendment to the motion to add a few words to the committee recommendation, and then councillor Chris White moved to consider a new policy for funding hospitals. Wilson seconded that.
That carried, but Maieron complained the county is refusing to fund medical centres. He said if the county does a program, it should be county wide. He said it helped Clifford build a medical centre, and pointed out the East Wellington Advisory Group had asked county council for help. He said the administration, finance, and personnel committee was supposed to present council with a terms of reference on medical centres, but did not.
He complained Arthur is getting a medical centre and it was not in the five year capital forecast. He said for such approvals, the Family Health Teams of those communities never came to council to seek support, but Erin’s did. “A lot of people in Erin don’t feel loved,” Maieron said.
Green said of his position, “I feel like that every day.”
Wilson told Maieron, “I disagree.” He cited Erin’s Centre 2000, the first major partnership in which the county became involved. “The whole thing started in Erin.”
Councillor Rod Finnie, the mayor of Erin, noted the county provided $400,000 for a 20 year lease on the library at Centre 2000, and challenged councillors to find a better deal.
Finnie said, “It’s not fair for Erin to pay for medical centres in other communities” with county tax dollars. He added hospitals, and noted, “We have neither. To do it alone would cost $1.5-million.”
Erin has been facing a severe doctor shortage, and officials believe a new medical centre would help attract more physicians to the community.
“If we’re going to fund hospitals, we should fund medical centres as well,” Finnie said. “I, for one, don’t think we should be in it” at all.
Councillor Walter Trachsel pointed out the medical centre in Mount Forest was paid for by Mount Forest residents.
As for inequities, he said the provincial government uses tax dollars from all over for Toronto projects, and “There are inequities all over the place.”
Minto paid for the Clifford centre when the library was built there, and Wellington North will do the same through the new Arthur library, which has a medical centre attached to it. Mapleton paid its own, too.
Council repealed the policy. It carried, with Finnie and Maieron opposed.