Eddie Chau, The Tribune
The Ministry of Health must give the green light before a decision can be made on where to build a south Niagara hospital.
It’s a sentiment echoed by several area mayors.
Welland’s Barry Sharpe, Port Colborne’s Vance Badawey, April Jeffs of Wainfleet, Doug Martin of Fort Erie, Niagara Falls’ Jim Diodati and Pelham’s Dave Augustyn met with Regional Chair Gary Burroughs last Friday in the first of a series of meetings to discuss a possible hospital site.
Diodati told QMI Agency Niagara after the meeting that the province should first endorse a new hospital before the mayors make a final decision on where it should be built.
“We need to hear from the minister of health. We don’t want to be doing this in vain,” Diodati said last Friday. “We want to know if (Health Minister Deb Matthews) is on side and supportive, and get a commitment on that, or else why go through this exercise?”
Jeffs agreed with her Niagara Falls counterpart, stating the Ministry of Health must give its blessing in order to “get the ball rolling” on deciding an appropriate site.
“We want to ensure that there’s proper funding available,” Jeffs said. “It can be located anywhere. Location is a huge issue. We have to be able to build it, too.”
Sharpe said the meeting with Burroughs went well and said there was a common agreement that it should be clear funding is available to support a hospital in south Niagara.
“We have to make sure it is a possibility before we go on,” Sharpe said.
Provincially appointed Niagara Health System supervisor Kevin Smith recently recommended a new hospital in the region’s south end to complement the one under construction in St. Catharines — and replace the Welland, Port Colborne, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls hospitals. Smith asked south Niagara mayors to suggest a suitable location for a new hospital and an urgent care centre.
Smith noted at the time it would cost about $1.1 billion for badly needed renovations to south Niagara’s four hospitals.
It would cost $850 million to build a new hospital to serve those communities, he said.
Smith said it’s difficult to gauge the dialogue between the provincial and regional levels of government. As part of the process Smith said he will review the options presented by the mayors and provide it as part of a recommendation by the end of June to the health minister.
Matthews said the region and its residents have been through a lot in the past few years based on the decisions made by the NHS.
“They’ve lost confidence in their hospitals,” she said. “We really need to hear from the community before we can recommend anything. What if they don’t want this (south Niagara hospital)? I need to hear that. Smith put out some options and we need the feedback.”
Matthews said she doesn’t want to short-circuit the local process. She wants to let it go on as planned.
“Let the community respond and we’ll go from there,” she said.