Stakeholders applaud investment in hospital
Posted: October 30, 2017
(October 29, 2017)
By: Steph Crosier, Kingston Whig-Standard
KINGSTON – The province’s announcement Friday that it will be contributing more than $500 million to redevelop Kingston General Hospital is great news for the city, says the mayor, the hospital workers’ union and the local health coalition.
“This is so important,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said on Friday. “This hospital site [KGH] and Hotel Dieu serve over half a million people in Kingston and the Kingston area, so it’s so important that they have the highest quality health-care services.
“The health-care providers here at the KGH site, they are doing an extraordinary job, but they are doing it in the oldest public hospital that is still functioning in all of Canada. This is the oldest hospital.”
The redevelopment project is to include the construction of an eight-storey building at Kingston General Hospital along with upgrades to the emergency department, operating rooms, clinical labs and inpatient units, neonatal intensive care unit and labour and delivery suites.
Dr. David Pichora, Kingston Health Sciences Centre president and chief executive officer, roughly estimated it may be complete in 2025-2026.
The new building will replace four buildings in the area.
“It’s a complicated building process, because it’s replace and reconstruct at the same time, it has to be done in two stages,” Pichora told the Whig-Standard Friday after the announcement. “It’s a big project, it’s an expensive project.”
Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren “Smokey” Thomas said Saturday he was happy that after 20 years of health-care austerity something was being done.
“I think it’s terrific news, but we’ll be watching; the devil is in the details,” Thomas said. “I can’t think of anything bad to say.”
Mike Rodrigues, president of local 1974 at KGH, said they’re seeing this as a positive as well.
He said they will be watching how the construction phase and results will affect their members. He added that renovations aren’t new to them, recalling when the Burr Wing was redeveloped and two floors were added to the Kidd/Davies Wing in 2012.
“We’ll be watching that no one loses work and that our collective agreement is followed through,” Rodrigues said. “We’ll be working with the employer to ensure that.”
Matthew Gventer, chair of the Kingston Health Coalition, was a little more hesitant. He told the Whig-Standard that while the development is good for KGH, it encourages large, central and regional hospitals rather than supporting smaller community hospitals.
“It has left people having to travel longer distances, as the minister said there are 500,000 people in the catchment area, many who live far, far from Kingston,” Gventer said. “Transportation is a very serious problem for people in the outlying areas. We don’t know if the province is addressing that to any extent.”
Gventer is also concerned about parking availability and cost of parking. He hopes that will be addressed in the development but he hasn’t seen any indication of that.
Mayor Bryan Paterson said parking and traffic has come up in discussions with the hospital surrounding this development.
“We’ll continue to have those discussions and come up with a plan that works for the community,” Paterson said. “Obviously we want to make sure that the hospital is accessible, but we think this is a provincial investment at the same time.”
Paterson said the investment is great news for a city that aims to be a health-care leader. In October 2016 council agreed to contribute $6.5 million to the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation fundraising program for the development. He noted there was a lot of discussion at that time whether to contribute.
“The discussion around the council table that night was that this is a critical investment that could position us as leaders in health-care and if we didn’t make that contribution that this money would go to some other hospital or some other community and we felt that Kingston was a priority,” Paterson said.
Pichora said that by working with Queen’s University they’ve already started to identify where some of the departments located in the soon-to-be-demolished building will temporarily re-locate.
“KGH started to initially work on this in 2010,” Pichora said. “I think the ministry and the LHIN [Local Health Integration Network] recognizes that these facilities are critical to Kingston to the university, we do a lot of teaching and learning in the hospital, we’re the tertiary critical care support for the LHIN in this region, and so this is absolutely necessary.”