‘There’s going to be a Whitby hospital:’ Ford recommits to long-awaited trauma centre

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Published February 15, 2024 at 3:44 pm

Ontario Premier Doug Ford in Whitby. File photo June 15, 2013.

Premier Doug Ford has finally confirmed there’s “going to be a Whitby hospital,” after all, despite a more than two- ear wait for work to begin.

In January 2022, after months-long fight between Durham municipalities, Lakeridge Health chose a site near the intersection of Hwy. 412 and Hwy. 407 to host their sixth hospital in the region. The new critical care facility will add Whitby to the list of hospital hosts which now includes Ajax, Bowmanville, Oshawa, Port Perry and Uxbridge. The new facility is set to become the only trauma centre between Toronto and Kingston.

Oshawa, Pickering and Whitby all submitted bids, though Lakeridge Health’s decision was controversial, with Oshawa and Pickering politicians criticizing the decision.

Lakeridge still required $3 million in funds from the Ontario government to get the site ready for construction and that cash infusion has not been forthcoming. A year after Lakeridge chose Whitby to host the new hospital, the funds had still not arrived, prompting then-newly elected Mayor Elizabeth Roy  to demand the Province “reaffirm” the support.

“A future hospital in this central location with close proximity to major roads and highways, will serve residents from across Durham. This means that when seconds count, people will be able to get care quickly.”

Time was still not of the essence to the province, however, which did not earmark any money for the hospital in the 2023 budget released one month after Roy’s comments. This left Roy “extremely disappointed” and worried about political interference. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, who prepares the Ontario budget, is the Pickering-Uxbridge MPP.

“Whitby was chosen because it is centrally located in Durham near major highways and roadways, offering quick access from any direction so that those who need critical care can get it fast. This location in the heart of the region will be critically important for trauma services and will bring care closer to home for residents from across Durham. Our residents can’t wait any longer for this project to move ahead.”

So far they’ve had to wait yet another year. This prompted Roy to lead a public advocacy charge to demand action on the hospital. “For two years, we have waited patiently,” she said, “That’s why I’m asking residents to speak out and join our advocacy efforts.”

She started an online letter-writing campaign to get Whitby resident’s demands for the hospital to the Premier’s desk. (Those who wish to take part can do so here.)

Roy said at the time it’s past time to get the project started, By 2041, Lakeridge Health will need an estimated 1,793 hospital beds – more than double the current count – and by 2051 the Durham Region population is expected to grow to 1.3 million people.

“Our residents face overwhelming waits in the emergency department or to be admitted to the hospital. When seconds count, Toronto and Kingston are the only options for Durham residents who need trauma care,” she said. “We need more care closer to home, and we can’t wait any longer.”

Days later she pulled in Whitby MP Ryan Turnbull to assist in the lobbying. Turnbull came in on the heels of a $3.1 billion Federal top-up for healthcare, in addition to the $77 billion from the Canada Health Transfer.

“The site was selected fair and square through a meticulous process and extensive community consultations by an independent expert panel,” Turnbull said in a social media post. “We have everything in place to get started on this much-needed hospital.”

The renewed pressure appears to have helped. On Feb. 15, Ford appeared on CKDO Radio for an interview. During the discussion with host Terry Johnson, Ford confirmed:  “There’s going to be a Whitby hospital.”

However, he prefaced the assurance noting that while Whitby MPP Lorne Coe is “on me all the time” about the hospital, Ontario is not issuing grants at the moment, but Durham is “right in line” when they resume.

“Down the road, very shortly, we’ll be issuing the planning grant.”

“Thank you to the Province for listening to our community’s collective voice,” Roy wrote, “We are committed to continuing our campaign over the next seven weeks, or until a formal announcement from the Province is made for the planning grant and the land disposition.”

“Our advocacy campaign has been a massive success over the first week, with 1,600 community members submitting letters to the Province and sharing their personal stories about the need for a new hospital,”

The hospital funding is almost entirely within provincial jurisdiction. Ontario is responsible for all planning costs and 90 per cent of construction costs.

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