The chair of the Centre Grey Hospital foundation says Markdale “can’t exist in limbo for too much longer” over a new hospital.
Ron Goldsmith, who also sits on the Grey Bruce Health Services board, hopes to be included in an upcoming meeting between GBHS and Health Minister Deb Matthews about a new hospital for Markdale.
“I think it's great news, something we've been hoping for for rather a long time,” Goldsmith said of the meeting with Matthews. “I take it as an extremely welcome opportunity, and one I look forward to greatly, whether I'm at the meeting or not.”
A date for the meeting is being worked out, and it's believed to be imminent. Goldsmith said there have been meetings about a new hospital with ministry staff over the years, but a sit-down with the minister is a rarity.
“At the very least it demonstrates that the minister knows we have a situation here that has to be addressed,” Goldsmith said this week, making it clear he was speaking in his role as foundation chair and not as a member of the GBHS board. “I think she probably does have an understanding of the situation the community is in. It's not a particularly common thing to have a completed fundraising campaign and have money sitting in the bank for seven or eight years.”
Markdale was given the green light to raise money for a new hospital about 12 years ago. During that time, $13.7 million was collected or pledged. That figure is now down to just over $12 million, because a major pledger died before the money was collected, Goldsmith said.
He said the $12 million still fulfils ministry requirements for the local portion of building a new hospital, which is somewhere upwards of $60 million. But some contributors to the campaign “have become extremely frustrated with the waiting game and have become doubtful that the project will go forward at all, and have been asking for their money back.”
There is no obligation to return money to donors as long as the project remains alive, Goldsmith said.
Active fundraising for a new hospital has halted, although the foundation continues to raise money annually for capital equipment. “The community is demonstrating extraordinary patience and support for the old hospital,” Goldsmith said.
More than two years ago, GBHS submitted revised plans for a new hospital, moving away from a stand-alone model. It calls for a 72,000-square foot “rural health centre” on property connected to the Grey Gables long-term care facility, which is owned by the county. The new hospital would be an integrated facility that would include primary care, an emergency department, ambulatory surgical services and procedures, 12 inpatient beds and rehabilitation services, as well as a lab and diagnostic imaging services. It would also house the Southeast Grey Community Health Centre, which is in temporary quarters in Markdale.
When plans for the new model were submitted, Goldsmith said it seemed to be what the ministry wanted, “but then it simply stalled.”
Goldsmith said he hopes the meeting with Matthews will shed some light on how the ministry views the project, and what more Markdale and GBHS might need to do. But he cautioned that he's not taking the meeting as a sign that a new hospital is a foregone conclusion.
“We would be naive if we went into the meeting thinking she was able to write us a cheque. I don't think that's going to happen. What I hope for is a combination of encouragement and clarity . . . I think the community knows better than to imagine that she's calling the meeting just to tell us that we can start the hospital next month.”