Whitby mayor ‘concerned’ about lack of funding for hospital build in Ontario budget

By

Published April 13, 2023 at 5:07 pm

Whitby mayor Elizabeth Roy is “concerned” about the status of the new hospital set to be built in her community after the Ontario government’s latest budget did not include funding for it.

Roy sat down with indurham founder and publisher Khaled Iwamura to discuss the long-standing issues and process behind getting the hospital built.

Lakeridge Health, which operates all the hospitals in Durham Region, chose a site near the intersection of Hwy. 412 and Hwy. 407 to host its sixth hospital. The new facility will add Whitby to the list of hospital hosts which now includes Ajax, Bowmanville, Oshawa, Port Perry and Uxbridge.

The new hospital will be the only trauma centre between Kingston and Toronto, featuring a neonatal ward. Roy stressed that while the hospital is set to go into Whitby, the entire region benefits from its construction.

“While this is the Whitby location this hospital will serve all of the Region of Durham,” Roy said. Currently Durham residents have to travel all the way to Toronto or Markham for trauma treatment or specialized care for newborns.

During the fall of 2021, potential spots in Pickering, Oshawa and Whitby, all of which had to be at least 10 kilometres from an existing hospital, were inspected for safety requirements, ease of access, and utility services among other criteria in a two-phase submission process.

Oshawa’s bid was quickly rejected as their location was within the 10-kilometre radius to Lakeridge Health Oshawa, causing Councillor Brian Nicholson to rail against this decision as “politically motivated,” calling the criteria “arbritary.

Pickering’s bid soon fared little better. Concern quickly grew regarding the site’s proximity to the Carruther’s Creek headwaters, long the subject of debate between developers and environmentalists. Studies indicate developing the headwaters would more than double the flooding risk and extend floodplains.

Following a months long selection process, Lakeridge chose Whitby on Jan. 6 2022. The decision was met with jubilation by Whitby. “We applaud Lakeridge Health’s selection of this central location which offers unparalleled connectivity from any direction,” said then-Mayor Don Mitchell. “When seconds and minutes count, those who need critical care can get it fast.”

He called the location “absolutely crucial” for what will be the only trauma centre between Toronto and Kingston.

After Roy was elected in October, she reiterated the Town’s support for the new hospital as one of her first acts as mayor on Jan 30. Meanwhile, Oshawa and Pickering representatives continued to kick up a fuss about the decision, maintaining they were the better choice despite Whitby’s selection.

“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,” Roy said.

However, actually getting shovels in the ground for the location is dependant on $3 million in funding from the provincial government in start-up money. Finance Minister and Pickering-Uxbridge MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy presented the 2023 Ontario budget in March but it didn’t include any money for the hospital.

“I am extremely disappointed that Ontario’s 2023 Budget released today does not include the planning grant required to support a new hospital in Durham Region. This is completely unacceptable,” Roy said at the time.

She was still disappointed by the time she spoke with Iwamura of indurham about it. “This is the second budget that has passed by…I’m concerned it was not part of the budget.”

She said she’s held meeting with Whitby MPP Lorne Coe, who is also Premier Doug Ford’s parliamentary secretary, to express her concerns. Additionally, she’s been in contact with the Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Committee.

Roy said in the conversation she had with Bethlenfalvy “they’re committed to health and with him being a Pickering MPP too I think one of the things all of us have to recognize, including the mayors and the MPPs, is the urgency of the need for health care in our community.”

“We’re in a health care crisis,” she added.

Roy also argued that it’s not just about the $3 million, a comparatively small portion of the overall cost. “It’s about the commitment from the province saying ‘we’re going to allow you to move forward.'”

Durham Region was first identified as needing a new hospital nearly a decade ago in 2015 and ongoing refurbishments in Uxbridge and Bowmanville “do not increase capacity,” Roy said.

“This is going to take another ten years so we’re talking 2033,” she noted. “I’m confident it will happen but I don’t know when or where. Even though the process for where has been done, I’m still a little skeptical.”

INdurham's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising