City & Brown got it wrong: Ford did not promise a third Brampton hospital
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford visited Brampton to meet with local politicians, including Mayor Patrick Brown, and announce additional funding for Peel police to fight gun and gang violence in the region. While taking questions from the media, Ford was asked about Brampton’s healthcare emergency, which City Council had declared two days earlier.
“We will support a hospital in Brampton,” the premier said.
His words spread like wildfire on social media, with Mayor Brown, the City of Brampton and local residents all celebrating Ford’s commitment.
The City and Brown quickly took to Twitter: “The City is encouraged Premier @fordnation publicly committed to a 3rd hospital in #Brampton yesterday.”
Brown retweeted the City’s tweet then posted his own: “This is the first time this commitment has been made. We just need to keep the pressure up.”
The City of Brampton’s official Twitter account helped spread the news of a possible third hospital to its more than 20,000 followers.
The problem? Ford’s words were misconstrued — there was no commitment to a third hospital. Instead, the premier promised to make the Phase II expansion of Peel Memorial a priority — something the province, years ago under the previous Liberal government has already said it would support and has already provided funding for, when the Kathleen Wynne government in 2018 gave $500,000 to the William Osler Health System so it could submit a proposal for the Phase II construction.
Ivana Yelich, press secretary for the premier, told The Pointer that “Ford was referring to our government’s support to advance the Peel Memorial expansion project through the next phases toward construction.”
When asked for clarification on statements made by the city on its Twitter account, which were retweeted by Brown, Gary Collins, director of communications in the mayor’s office, referred The Pointer’s inquiry to Yelich and the premier’s office.
Brampton has been suffering with inadequate healthcare for years. With Ford promising nothing more than to support Peel Memorial’s already planned expansion, residents affected by the crisis won’t feel relief any time soon.
NDP Opposition leader Andrea Horwath, who has long fought to expand healthcare in Brampton, frequently visiting its overcrowded hospitals to understand how dire the situation is, says a third hospital is needed.
“The Brampton health crisis is real, and we can solve it by properly investing in health care with the Peel Memorial Phase II expansion, and a new hospital," she told The Pointer Tuesday morning.
“I’ve put motions on the table at Queen’s Park to do just that, twice. Both times Doug Ford‘s PC MPPs voted it down. If Doug Ford were really interested in expanding Peel Memorial into a full service hospital, he would have voted to do that.”
Horwath has been the most vocal party leader on Brampton’s healthcare file, previously lodging sharp criticism at the Liberals for their lack of action over more than a decade.
“The NDP has no intention of giving up on Brampton families. We’ll fight for Peel Memorial Phase II and for a new hospital until the doors are open and patients are being treated.”
Andrea Horwath speaking on the healthcare crisis during a visit to Brampton last year.
Hallway healthcare — a term used to describe patients treated in hospital hallways instead of actual beds — has been a constant issue in Brampton for years, with 3,035 patients treated in the hallways of Brampton Civic in 2018, something residents will have to deal with until the second phase of Peel Memorial is complete, if the project meets the needs of the city. This remains unclear.
Residents, Brown and the rest of council have called for an additional 850 hospital beds for Phase II, which would make the expansion alone larger than Brampton Civic, the city’s lone full-service hospital where 635 in-patient beds are located.
Peel Memorial, planned as a preventative wellness centre, currently has no in-patient beds and its emergency department is only open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m..
It would take about 850 new hospital beds just to bring Brampton up to the provincial per-capita average, a figure that is currently more than twice as high as the number of hospital beds in the city. But the gap grows by the day, as Brampton adds approximately 14,000 net new residents every year, with no extra hospital beds planned for the near future.
Osler told The Pointer that Phase II of Peel Memorial will not be open for five to eight years. That’s little comfort to families already struggling in the city’s overcrowded healthcare system.
Chris Bejnar, co-founder of Citizens For a Better Brampton, has long advocated for proper healthcare in the hyper-growth city. He voiced his frustration recently to The Pointer over Osler’s handling of the Phase II expansion, questioning why it has been so delayed. The province provided $500,000 in early 2018 for Osler to plan the Phase II submission, which it says is only now, two years later, ready to hand over to the province.
Bejnar also questioned the lack of transparency behind the process, with no public input, leaving residents blind, unsure if Osler is even planning to make Memorial a full-service hospital with the number of beds the city needs.
It’s unclear when Osler will make the details of its proposal for Phase II public. There will likely be a significant outcry if it falls short of what the city expects. Osler’s last CEO, Dr. Brendan Carr, left in December and it remains unclear who will now head up the effort to get Phase II off the ground. Dr. Frank Martino, Osler’s Chief of Staff, is currently filling in as the acting CEO.
Meanwhile, local leaders are expressing concern over the ongoing delays in providing proper healthcare to residents.
“We see Bramptonians suffering through really long wait times, through an overcrowded hospital and it’s really hurting our community,” NDP MPP Gurratan Singh (Brampton East) told The Pointer. “It’s wrong and that's why the NDP, I’m proud to say ... [has] called on the government twice since the 2018 election to fund Brampton’s healthcare, to properly fund Brampton Civic, to convert Peel Memorial’s health centre into a hospital and to build a third hospital. Both times, the Conservatives have voted down and against these Opposition motions,” Singh said over the phone.
Brampton NDP MPPs (from left to right) Kevin Yarde (Brampton North), Gurratan Singh (Brampton East) and Sara Singh (Brampton Centre)
MPP Amarjot Sandhu (Brampton West) was absent from the 2018 motion tabled by Andrea Horwath to allocate money from the 2019 budget for a third hospital in Brampton. In 2019, Sandhu told The Pointer he voted for the NDP’s motion for a second hospital and immediate expansion of Peel Memorial. Ultimately, neither motion was passed due to a lack of support from the PCs.
“As MPP for Brampton West, I will continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents to ensure our government is protecting what matters most – our healthcare system,” he told The Pointer via email.
Brampton’s other PC MPP Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria (Brampton South), did not respond to The Pointer ahead of publication.
Brampton’s healthcare emergency announcement is something NDP MPP Sara Singh (Brampton Centre) is taking with “a grain of salt,” as it could have been avoided altogether.
“[The government] had the opportunity to support motions that allocate this funding. An empty promise made at some news announcement isn’t a guarantee of these funds being allocated,” she told The Pointer, referring to Ford’s comments on Friday.
Brampton’s healthcare crisis is a grim picture that has cursed the city’s hospital system for decades. While the City of Brampton officially declared a healthcare emergency last week, it has been a long time coming. The former Liberal government had been in power for more than 15 years in Ontario, with Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne both serving as premier.
Before Brampton Civic was even built, the problems began. According to the 2008 Auditor General Report, in 2000, plans for this hospital came about, in response to projections that Brampton’s population would skyrocket in the coming decades (which it has) and a new hospital would be needed to provide services to these residents. Even so, Brampton Civic hasn't been able to keep up with demand.
At the time, the Liberal government directed the William Osler Health System to create the hospital using the P3 process, a Public Private Partnership, an arrangement between the government and the private sector to share in the entire project. According to the 2008 report, for this hospital model, the private sector partners provide design costs, construction costs and financing, with all parties involved sharing business risks. In turn, the hospital pays private partners over the years for certain costs. The report further states that there are many reasons governments enter into such an agreement, including downloading possible risks to the private sector.
P3 was favoured by the government over the traditional process of public-sector management, as estimates showed it would be cheaper. This was flawed, according to the 2008 report, which found the traditional method to be more cost efficient than the P3 model, given this was the first time the province planned on using it. When the hospital opened in October 2007 with 608 beds, only 479 were in service due to a shortage in staff and demand at the time. Osler planned to increase this number as time progressed to deal with demand. According to the audit, the Region of Peel funded $37 million for the project, which ended up costing $614 million just for the capital construction. The original estimate submitted by Osler stated the cost would be $357 million.
The next blow for Brampton’s healthcare system came shortly after. When Brampton Civic opened its doors, Peel Memorial closed its own for renovations. Brampton Civic was supposed to assist Peel Memorial with caring for patients, but that never ended up happening. Soon, patients were forced to take refuge in hallways, with a shortage of beds to find comfort.
In 2017, the Liberals responded with 37 more beds for Brampton Civic, and a promise by former Health Minister Eric Hoskins to fund the second phase of Peel Memorial’s outpatient hospital, which was and still is, serving as a wellness centre. As previously reported by The Pointer, this hospital expansion won’t open for another five to eight years.
Today, with the Conservatives in power, nothing more is being done to help Brampton with its healthcare crisis. The expansion for Peel Memorial is still in the planning stages. Cara Francis, Osler’s director of public relations, said the first phase for the proposal of the expansion will be submitted to the Ministry by the end of the month.
Part of the expansion includes a $20 million sum waiting to be used. This was funded by Brampton taxpayers, who are waiting to use a facility they desperately need. Funding came from a 2013 tax levy that saw a total of $60 million raised, $40 million of which was allocated toward Phase 1 of Peel Memorial, and the rest is saved for Phase II.
An early rendering of the phased buildout for Peel Memorial.
Brown told The Pointer it came as a surprise when the province recently told him Brampton would have to contribute 25 percent of the Phase II cost, far more than the 10 percent local contribution the province usually demands for hospital projects. This could mean taxpayers and Osler will be on the hook for $150-$200 million, possibly more, to get the project done. It’s money the cash-strapped city does not have, leaving taxpayers to likely foot the bill through a special levy.
Possible programs and services as part of the expansion include mental health and addiction services, post-surgery rehabilitation and physiotherapy, Francis told The Pointer.
But opening up another facility takes time. The issue here is that expansion for Phase II will take years while a real problem exists now, as the local population continues to rapidly increase. In the meantime, MPP Sara Singh suggests measures should be put in place to help relieve demand at Brampton Civic. “That's going to involve perhaps getting our urgent care centre (the emergency ward at Peel Memorial) open 24 hours a day. I recently learned they moved the hours from 10 to 9…that's an hour less of facilities available to our citizens. Why is that happening?”
It’s not clear what the government has planned in order to relieve Brampton Civic of some pressure while the city waits for Peel Memorial’s second phase to open, but it’s clear something needs to be done.
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