There have been a number of columns and editorials and think pieces regarding the construction of Windsor’s proposed new mega-hospital on the outskirts of the city. Such a development, we’re told, is the way of the future.
We’ll shut down our two current inner-city hospitals and build a state-of-the-art facility out near the airport where there’s more than enough space for such a mecca. A greater proportion of our population, we’re told, has moved to the county and to adjacent towns such as Lakeshore and Tecumseh. The new mega-hospital more accurately reflects the new dispersion of the population.
We’re told this new location, with its cutting-edge technology and more ideal location, will save lives.
But as with most things, these statements of how much better things will be is really only true for some of us.
I’m no luddite. I’m not against progress for the sake of romanticizing some ideal past where everyone was happier and healthier. Most of the time, that’s total bullshit.
New hospitals are good things when they are needed. Cutting-edge technology does save lives. Keeping up with the highest possible standards of health care is one of the most important things we can do as a society; especially given the increased degradation of our environment which has and will continue to lead to more and more health problems from respiratory issues to cancer.
But when such a development is being built at the edge of a city, where no infrastructure exists except that which will cost the city millions to build, and where the poorest members of our community are having accessible health care moved further and further away from them, at their own taxed expense no less, I just cannot support it.
This decision confirms what we all say cannot be true in a free, liberal democracy: the lives of the affluent mean more than the lives of the poor.
In his column voicing support for the project, the Windsor Star’s Chris Vander Doelen made the astute observation that “most voters in the region, by far, want the new hospital, like where it will be built, and are willing to help pay for it.”
Vander Doelen’s selective appreciation for democracy aside, the mega-hospital is one of those issues where democracy in its purest form should be ignored. Let’s assume that Mr. Vander Doelen’s assertion that “most voters” want the hospital in its proposed location is true—and there’s no evidence I have seen that actually suggests that. If “most voters” want something, does that mean they automatically get it?
If “most voters” wanted to kill all brown-eyed people in cold blood, do we have to step aside and say, ‘well, I guess we should start building death camps’?
I construct this extreme analogy to illustrate a point: if the majority of citizens want a hospital in a location that disadvantages the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community, then the majority of citizens, in the name of social justice, does not get what they want. Majority rule only applies when the rights of all people are being upheld.
A hospital that is further away from the poorest members of the community, in this case those living in the city’s downtown and west-end, will mean that more poor people will die in emergency situations because they are not able to get to the hospital in time.
How is it that we can, in good conscience, build a hospital that means more poor people will die for the convenience of the middle class? The areas this proposed new hospital will serve are more affluent than the areas our current hospitals serve. Many of those more affluent people have cars which increases their ability to get to hospitals in times of need.
And yes, I understand, the county and the towns in it are woefully underserved in terms of adequate health care; there is only one hospital in Essex County outside of Windsor—and that’s in Leamington. But is the only choice to sacrifice the lives and safety of the poor to serve that need?
This decision, in no uncertain terms, is telling everyone that the lives of the poor matter less than the lives of the rest of the population.
I’m not going to pretend that I know how to better use billions of dollars to make sure our health care distribution is more socially just—but I can’t imagine the path we’re choosing is the best one.
Democracy only matters when it respects human rights. The rights of the affluent do not get privilege of over the rights of the poor.