City considering $125M levy on Brampton residents to pay ‘their share’ for Peel Memorial expansion
Confusion around the Phase-2 expansion of Peel Memorial continues.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has trumpeted the project and has joined the PC government in claiming it will create the city’s desperately needed second “full service hospital”. He has acknowledged the need for a local share of investment in order to get shovels in the ground but no mention of a special levy was included in the 2020 budget.
The 2021 budget was the same.
Brown has demanded tax freezes, knowing that money will have to be raised if the city wants to see the Peel Memorial expansion, which was finally included in the 2021 provincial budget. The PCs have claimed the project, which now has up to $1 billion earmarked from Queen’s Park, will create a second hospital in the city, where residents are woefully underserved by the lone hospital, Brampton Civic.
However, there is even more confusion as questions have been raised about what the second phase of Peel Memorial will actually deliver. Brampton taxpayers could be stuck with a $125 million bill for a building that won’t even have in-patient beds when it opens, and will fall far short of delivering healthcare provided in a full-service hospital.
One council member has been shaken into action.
In the October 20 City Council meeting, Councillor Pat Fortini put forward a motion that the council look into considering a special levy in order to guarantee Brampton’s required share of funding for the expansion, to ensure the project moves forward as soon as possible.
Brampton will likely be responsible to share a part of the cost for the hospital, however, the amount proposed by City staff is just an estimate.
Chief Administrative Officer David Barrick said the required local share could be an estimated $125 million by 2027.
Fortini explained to The Pointer that Brampton might have to cover 10 percent of the overall $1.2 billion estimated cost proposed by the Ontario government and William Osler which manages Peel Memorial and Civic.
Brampton Councillor Pat Fortini
(Image from The Pointer files)
“My understanding is that we have to come up with $250 million, out of which William Osler will share half the cost,” he told council members two weeks ago.
Fortini’s motion was deferred and will be discussed today, November 3.
Brampton taxpayers have already contributed $20 million for the Phase-2 expansion through a levy, as The Pointer has reported, which was supposed to have been used a decade ago when the project was promised by the former Liberal government.
A March 2021 press release from William Osler, following the commitment by the Doug Ford PC government, said Peel Memorial is to be transformed into a 24/7 inpatient hospital and Urgent Care Centre, creating a hopeful avenue for a much-needed eventual emergency department.
Urgent care is different than Emergency and essentially means tending to immediate but non-life-threatening matters.
At the recent meeting, Councillor Fortini said it’s pretty shameful what people of Brampton have to go through to receive healthcare.
“Patients are being left in the hallways.”
Fortini experienced this first hand when his wife needed emergency care during the pandemic, he told The Pointer.
“She was crying, she couldn't move and I couldn’t just stand there for hours.”
After seeing his wife wince in pain, Fortini drove her to Georgetown hospital instead.
“At Georgetown, they brought her in within the hour.”
Fortini does not want anyone to go through what he and his wife had to at Brampton Civic.
“When we live here in Brampton, why can’t I go to a hospital across the street?”
“If someone's doing chemo, you’ve to go all the way up Mount Sinai in Toronto which may cost you thousands of dollars just for gas and parking,” he said.
“For $50 a year, you can get it right here around the corner. Why would you go all the way there?”
Fortini says he’s disappointed that Ford and the PCs only made the funding commitment right before next year’s election, despite Brampton begging for it since the Liberals were in power.
“Premier Ford, Christine Elliott - all these people came for a tour so they knew we needed a hospital.”
But now that the province has made the announcement, Fortini doesn’t want to delay the hospital any further.
“You worry about the election or you worry about health?” he asks.
NDP Health critic France Gélinas too says the province isn’t treating the residents of Brampton fairly when it comes to healthcare.
“No matter where you live, whether you live in northern Ontario or Brampton, for Medicare to be true, we need to have equitable access,” she told The Pointer.
“People from Brampton that were sick enough to be admitted into the intensive care, to be put on a ventilator, were actually flown up north because the hospital system could not cope in the Brampton area,” Gélinas said, recalling the overcrowded ICU beds during the third wave of the pandemic at Civic Hospital, when it accounted for more patient transfers than all other Ontario hospitals combined.
“It is wrong. It is wrong. The Ford government has had four years to deal with this and has done very little,” she said.
She says Doug Ford is not the first premier to treat Brampton like a forgotten child.
“None of those governments, whether Harris, Eves, McGuinty, Wynne or Ford, have taken their responsibility toward the people of Brampton, and this is wrong,” Gélinas said.
“Brampton Civic Hospital is treating an average of 400 to 450 patients per day or approximately 3,000 per week,” Fortini said at the council meeting.
Hallway medicine was common in Brampton even before COVID-19 devastated Brampton Civic.
The new Memorial expansion will include approximately 360 beds, Fortini told The Pointer, recalling his conversation with the William Osler CEO and senior staff a few days earlier.
This is only a fraction of the approximately 1,000 new beds Brampton needs just to reach the Ontario per capita average, and by the time the project is completed in about seven years, the rapidly growing city will be even further behind.
But the concern does not end there. Resident Chris Bejnar, co-founder of advocacy group Citizens For a Better Brampton, met with Osler officials a few weeks ago and he says they told him phase-2 of Peel Memorial will open with no inpatient beds and will not be a full-service hospital.
“I was told the initial 250 beds will be for ambulatory care, chronic care and mental health care. No inpatient beds, zero upon the opening, with only 100 inpatient beds to be funded at Memorial within two or three years of the opening.”
Bejnar says he was shocked.
“We have been waiting 15 years for a second hospital, when it was promised to be built. Now the mayor and premier are telling Brampton taxpayers, who send their hard-earned income to other communities, like Mr. Ford’s Etobicoke riding, that get our money for their healthcare investments, that we will finally be treated fairly. And we find out phase 2 won’t even have one inpatient bed and won’t even be a proper hospital. No treatment for cancer patients, heart patients, diabetes patients who need urgent care, and a unit that can look after them in acute situations. How can there be no acute-care beds? That’s what a hospital is.”
He also raised concern over the $125 million.
“It won’t even get us a hospital, and when inpatient, acute beds are finally introduced, we’re only going to get 100?” He said he was told there might be a handful of acute, inpatient beds upon opening. “We need at least 1,000 acute, inpatient beds, by then probably at least 1,200. We need three hospitals. We’re not even getting two. Brampton taxpayers already paid $20 million for a second hospital, and that has wasted away. It’s probably worth less than half that today.”
The Pointer reached out to William Osler and the Ontario Ministry of Health but didn’t hear back ahead of publication.
Gélinas is the MPP for Nickel Belt, a trained physiotherapist and has worked in the frontlines. She says Brampton needs at least 1,000 beds, at a bare minimum, to provide an acceptable standard of care.
She says overcrowded hospitals aren’t unique to the Flower City, but unfortunately, Brampton Civic is usually the worst.
The proposed levy, once approved, would be another burden for Brampton residents on top of their property taxes.
Because everyone uses a hospital, Fortini thinks nobody would complain if the city decides to implement a levy.
He says he feels for the low-income community members who are already struggling but sometimes difficult decisions need to be made.
“You can’t keep everyone happy…at the end of the day we all use the hospital.”
“I know this is a bad time for everyone but $50 is like a case of a beer, it's not gonna kill you.”
After talking with his constituents, Fortini is confident even a $100-a-year levy for five or six years would be fine.
Early renderings for the Peel Memorial expansion.
He says every household, except renters, would have to pay around $50 annually like last time when the levy was collected, for which, “no one’s going to complain.”
Gélinas says otherwise.
Canada’s universal health care model is based on needs and not on someone’s ability to pay.
“If you need the help of physicians, you need to go to the hospital. Medicare is based on your needs.”
Mayor Brown is not the only one unsure about the levy, Fortini too says the hospital levy is a “maybe”.
He proposed a new motion to have City staff come up with alternatives to take the additional tax burden off the residents, Fortini told The Pointer. It’s something Brown, who doesn’t mind hiking up costs for residents, as long as he can claim they’re not a tax, is likely pushing.
“If we do the levy, we can always stop it five-six years down the line,” Fortini said.
He has his own ideas for the November 3 brainstorming session.
“We have so much surplus land sitting around doing nothing, the old bus terminal at Bramalea city centre, we can't use it, we could sell it.”
“There's no price tag on healthcare.”
“When we go there, we bitch at the hospital.”
“It's not the hospital. It's us, politicians. We're not doing our job.”
Fortini doesn’t want Brampton to lose the promised provincial funding over not being able to pay the City’s share and the recent announcement by the province for a new hospital in Niagara doesn’t help him keep calm.
“Everyone's got two or three hospitals and here in Brampton we barely got one because it's so busy,” Fortini says.
“I don’t want to end up pulling the plug on this because we can’t come up with the funding.”
“I want staff to come back with a plan for how we’re going to come up with our share,” he told his colleagues two weeks ago.
“What would you tell your residents when they have a loved one in the hallways, ‘I'm sorry, I didn't support the levy?’.”
Fortini says Brampton is spending money on cricket, downtown improvement, road expansions, but not on what's most important.
Gélinas says never in her 14 years at Queen’s Park has a city had to foot a share to the tune of $125 million for only 250 initial beds that are not even for inpatient care. The William Osler expansion of Etobicoke General recently, in Ford’s backyard, was fully funded by the provincial taxpayers, without any local share.
“We spent a billion dollars for a P3 hospital but North Bay did not have to raise $125 million,” Gélinas said.
Putting such a big price tag on healthcare for Brampton, she said, may discourage people and shift the burden on residents.
“I don't know what games are being played. But that's all those are, they are games. There is no way that a community would have to raise that kind of money,” she told The Pointer.
She’s afraid the PCs are weaving a political web, and the narrative would shift to Brampton not wanting a hospital because the residents don't want to have $125 million on their tax bill.
“Participate in the fundraising: Yes, absolutely. But not to this magnitude.”
When Etobicoke General needed its expansion, Premier Ford’s riding of Etobicoke North didn’t have to pay a levy.
She says you cannot have one set of rules for Etobicoke and a different set of rules for Brampton.
“Everybody can see that this is not fair.”
“I've been an MPP for 14 years. I know the ministry of health and I know how to look through the budget of Infrastructure Ontario to see where is the money to do the redevelopment to build a new hospital, but none of that is there,” Gélinas said.
The NDP had put forward a motion for a new full-service hospital, separate from the phase-2 Peel Memorial expansion, which was defeated by the majority PCs.
Gélinas said the NDP will hold true to this commitment as soon as they form the government.
More information will be provided following today’s council meeting where William Osler senior staff will be presenting details of the Peel Memorial Phase-2 expansion.
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