Being a resident of South Niagara, I have a very personal interest in local health care and I fully support the efforts of Fort Erie's Yellow Shirt Brigade. I was at the SAVE OUR HOSPITAL rally on October 2, 2008 at the Fort Erie Leisureplex and I believe that the presentations made to Dr Kitts are just as relevant now as they were then. However, keeping the status quo with the existing hospitals doesn't make sense today because the maintenance costs of their aging, asbestos-laden structures likely make it cheaper to build the new SNH and some local urgent care centres than it would be to modernize the existing hospitals. However, I have not seen any cost estimates for refurbishing the existing hospitals.
After further investigation by Dr Kevin Smith and discussions with the South Niagara mayors, an agreement was reached and Dr Smith's Final Report was presented to the Ministry of Health. While I think the Niagara Health System could have done a better job of originally planning Niagara health care, Dr Smith's recommendations are now the best option now for South Niagara residents. I think that most of the recommendations made in the final report should be implemented by the Ministry of Health immediately.
I am not convinced that Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) are the best way to save money. My feeling is that using PPP to reduce the capital cost of building infrastructure ends up costing taxpayers more in the long-run with excessive maintenance costs. Penny wise and dollar foolish.
While a nice gesture, the cities of Fort Erie and Niagara Falls should NOT be paying any money towards the cost of building the new South Niagara Hospital because they already paid for their own hospitals the first time. There are plenty of municipal projects that would be better served with that money. I would fight the provincial government's acceptance of these municipal gifts.
I do NOT agree with the Report's statement that decommissioned hospital sites will be sold, with the municipalities having the right of first refusal at fair market value. The NHS inherited these facilities and I believe that the properties should be returned to the municipalities that built them when they are no further use to the NHS.
Dr Smith's 2012 Final Report recommends that 2 urgent care centres (freestanding entities in leased space) to be placed in yet undetermined locations in South Niagara in addition to the new Niagara Falls acute care facility. I think there should be more locations because travel times from Niagara communities to the new hospital are unacceptably long.
- Niagara-on-the-Lake is poorly served by the touted SNH location on Lyons Creek Road. From the site of the current NOTL hospital to either the St Catharines Hospital or the South Niagara Hospital, travel time is an unacceptable 31 minutes.
- Travel time from Pelham (Fenwick) is 32 minutes to the SNH or 25 minutes to the St Catharines Hospital. Either case is unacceptably long.
- Travel time from Wainfleet is 29 minutes to the SNH, 35 minutes to the St Catharines Hospital, or 21 minutes to the Dunnville Hospital.
An issue that the SNH proposal doesn't consider is that there is no guarantee that residents of North Welland (where the majority of Welland's growth occurs) will go to the SNH. Travel time from North Welland (Rice Rd & Thorold Rd) to the new St Catharines Hospital is 22 minutes (18 km) which is identical to the new SNH at Lyons Creek Rd (17 km). I think there is a very real possibility that St Catharines will be overwhelmed with additional traffic from Welland, especially in bad weather where Highway 406 would be more likely to be plowed compared with the Regional Roads leading to the SNH.