It’s curious that the decision for the proposed mega-hospital facing Windsor Essex appears to have been made by a very small unelected group of people, the majority of whom don’t live in Windsor. For residents expected to foot the bill for this $2 billion project, it has been impossible so far to find any local elected officials willing to accept responsibility for the proposal.
This makes it very difficult, in all likelihood intentionally so, to direct formal complaints.
Philippa Von Ziegenweidt
Within days of the greenfield mega-hospital announcement in July 2015, Bob Renaud, Chair of the Board of Windsor Regional Hospital told the media that the decision was firm.
Windsor City Council claimed they had no say in the matter, which was the purported reason Mayor Dilkens declined to meet with Citizens for an Accountable Mega-hospital Planning Process (CAMPP). It was also why Council declined our request to talk about our concerns at a Council meeting.
When we turned to the Provincial Ministry of Health, they were adamant that site location is a local matter. Their representative in Windsor Essex, the Erie-St Clair LHIN, insisted at their May Board Meeting that matters beyond programs and services fell outside their area of responsibility.
All this can only lead one to conclude that full accountability for the decision to replace Windsor’s two existing hospitals with one greenfield facility on County Road 42 lies with the Steering Committee. This committee is co-chaired by hospital CEO David Musyj, and former NDP Cabinet Minister Dave Cooke, who stepped down from his role as Chair of the Erie St. Clair LHIN in order to take this position. In the early 1990’s, Mr. Cooke held the position of Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, so it isn’t at all unreasonable to expect him to understand the importance of the language and goals of Ontario’s Planning Policy, which directs communities to develop brownfields and infill sites before resorting to urban sprawl development.
Technically, it appears the Steering Committee is answerable to the Board of Directors of Windsor Regional Hospital. However, the relationship is so cozy that any independent oversight role is illusory. Of the 18 Steering Committee members, 15 are connected to Windsor Regional Hospital, the CCAC or the Erie St. Clair LHIN. The Chair of the Site Selection Committee, which reports to the Steering Committee, is also the Chair of the hospital’s Board. A total of 6 of its 11 members are either current or former members of the Board. While the public at large was invited to submit resumes to sit on this committee, could the role of the 5 who were selected truly be described as much more than ornamental? After all, while there is no doubt about their sincerity and dedication to the job they were entrusted to do, they could be outvoted by the other 6 with ties to the hospital Board, with confidentiality agreements ensuring that any disagreements would never see the light of day.
CAMPP has written extensively about why we believe the mega-hospital proposal is a risky and expensive misadventure threatening Windsor’s viability.
The Steering Committee has responded that their responsibility doesn’t extend beyond the provision of healthcare into city-building. The proposal awaiting the Minister of Health’s approval is fraught with flaws, and this statement underpins most of them.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the health of our community is intertwined with our physical healthcare. Denying this relationship is both misguided and irresponsible.
The project is too big, too important, and its impact too far-reaching, for it to be allowed to proceed without any formal avenues for public feedback. We need a public discussion that invites all stakeholders, regardless of who they work for, to openly express their opinion. Views need to be captured in an objective format that ensures none fall by the wayside. Most of all, we need elected and unelected officials to consider all feedback seriously, without allowing them to dismiss constructive criticism and valid concerns as naysaying.
As physicians like to say, prevention is better than cure. We need to do what it takes to prevent what will otherwise surely be a $2 billion mistake.
The mega-hospital proposal needs a re-think. If our elected representatives are too timid to challenge those leading the project, it’s our citizen responsibility to demand it instead.
We live in a democratic society and we deserve nothing less.