After repeated delays, Peel Memorial expansion plans in province’s hands
The expansion of Peel Memorial into a full-service hospital has finally taken another step toward becoming a reality with William Osler Health System submitting its plans for the project to the province earlier this year, months after it initially intended.
Both William Osler, the organization responsible for healthcare in Brampton and Etobicoke, and the provincial government confirm the initial proposal for Phase II of Peel Memorial was finalized at the beginning of March, only days before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in Ontario.
“Since that time, we have had a number of discussions with Ministry staff, (Health) Minister (Christine) Elliott, Mayor (Patrick) Brown, and a number of elected officials about the project," said Donna Harris, Osler’s public relations manager. “We understand reviews have been impacted by the provincial focus on COVID-19 over the past number of months.”
Any future delays as a result COVID-19 will only further hamper a project that has been fraught with a lack of urgency, despite the startling healthcare crisis unfolding in Brampton. The city only has one full-service hospital to serve a population of nearly 600,000 residents.
The planned expansion of Peel Memorial into a full-service hospital is desperately needed in Brampton which is currently in the midst of a healthcare crisis. An initial rendering of expansion plans is pictured above.
David Jensen, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Health, confirmed the submission came on March 2, a month after Osler’s extended January due date, and several months after its initial submission date of Fall 2019.
“The submission is presently under review,” Jensen wrote in an email.
In 2017, William Osler Health System opened the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness to Brampton residents. A 325,000 square foot facility designed for day surgeries, acute and preventative care. The space was meant to take pressure off of Brampton Civic Hospital, which data has consistently shown is operating over-capacity and has some of the worst wait times in the province. This didn’t happen.
Peel Memorial was built with no in-patient beds, meaning no patients could stay overnight. Osler settled on a phased approach to transition Peel Memorial into a full-service hospital, with “immediate priorities” addressed in phase one and long-term, future priorities, including beds, in the second stage.
Despite a desperate need for them in the city, the first phase of Peel Memorial did not include any in-patient beds.
Three years after phase one opened to the public, Brampton Civic remains the only full-service hospital in the city.
A review of the Phase II proposal by both the Ministry and the Central West Local Health Integration Network, which serves Brampton residents, is currently underway. A meeting with the hospital to provide feedback and “refine the scope and costing of the project” will likely take place sometime in Fall 2020, Jensen shared.
“The Ministry and LHIN’s comments will include feedback on the program and service elements, physical solutions proposed and costing information identified in the Stage 1: Proposal submission.”
Jensen also said Osler will be submitting additional material as part of the proposal, “to address the scope component on cancer radiation services to be sited in vacated spaces at the Brampton Civic Hospital site,” in the Fall as well.
It remains unclear whether Brampton residents will be consulted on the Phase II plans. This is concerning as funds collected from taxpayers will be used to help build the facility. The City of Brampton currently has $20 million allocated for the expansion of Peel Memorial, collected through a Hospital Levy attached to resident tax bills. It is still waiting to be used. In 2013, the City of Brampton approved the tax levy to raise money for Peel Memorial’s expansion. A total of $60 million was collected and $40 million went towards the first phase. A final cost to the second phase of the expansion has not been shared.
Details on the specifics of the proposal have not been made public. Information available online and collected by The Pointer reveals a partial picture. Phase 2 will allow Peel Memorial to operate around the clock (it is currently only open between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), will include approximately 200 patient beds, and offer services addressing mental health, senior care and occupational therapy.
When it comes to emergency care in the city, Brampton Civic is the only spot for residents in dire need.
The Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness includes an urgent care centre to deal with things like broken bones, minor burns and infections, but if the situation is more severe, for things like seizures or major trauma, individuals have to visit the ER at Brampton Civic.
Currently, Peel Memorial’s UCC is closed as a result of lower patient volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions on specifics to when the centre will reopen were not answered in time of publication.
“Osler continues to monitor demand for its emergency services and any surge in inpatient and emergency department patient volumes at Brampton Civic and Etobicoke General would trigger a re-opening of the UCC,” Osler said in a news release.
The shut-down was part of a larger trend seen across the country, as residents opted against visiting ERs. In British Columbia, emergency department visits dropped from 6,500 in the beginning of March to about 3,600 mid-April. Emergency department visits in Ontario also dropped (by 6.7 percent) in the early stages of COVID-19, between January and March, compared to the same time last year, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Information.
A similar trend was reflected in Brampton’s hospital wait times. The average wait time for patients in the ER who ended up getting admitted to the hospital was 16 hours in June, compared to 19.7 hours in November 2019. The provincial target time of 8 hours to get people admitted was met 23 percent of the time in June and 24 percent of the time in 2019.
The decrease in ER visits doesn't necessarily mean a decrease in health problems, doctors across the country have expressed in numerous media reports. It may just mean people are putting off seeking such care in fear of catching the virus. Behind COVID-19, Brampton’s healthcare crisis, which in January council declared a “healthcare emergency”, still exists.
Before the spread of the novel coronavirus, Brampton Civic was a prime example of hallway health care. Looking at the city’s healthcare funding provides a partial explanation to why. In 2017-18, the Central West LHIN received $936 in overall funding per person compared to the provincial average of $1,907. As of 2019, there was less than one hospital bed for every 1,000 residents in the city, compared to the provincial average of 2.3 hospital beds for the same number of residents.
Prior to COVID-19 it was quite common to see patients being treated in the hallways of Brampton Civic Hospital.
Early on in the pandemic, Peel Memorial also served as the only testing centre in Brampton. In June, it shifted its testing centre to South Fletcher’s Sportsplex, and closed its Peel Memorial location as cases in Brampton continued to grow. On Tuesday, the city reported 4 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its average from August 26 to September 1 to 20.5 cases for the week. In comparison, the City of Mississauga presented an average of 5.2 cases in the same time period.
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