By Gerry Barker
September 16, 2019
NOTE: This Wednesday, guelphspeaks.ca will publish the story of how the city administration financially supported the lawsuit initiated by a former employee against long-time columnist and citizen, Gerry Barker, for defamation including the costs of the action to date.
When we moved to Guelph16 years ago the population of the city was some 112,000 residents. In the last Canadian national census four years ago, our population had grown to 131,000.
That does not include the 20,000 University of Guelph students who arrive in September and leave in April/May.
A few years back I spent three hours in the ER with a sinus-related condition but walked out. The staff was busy and triage decisions must be made to determine severity and complications. That is understandable.
With this week’s announcement of expansion there was a missing element that the need in emergency, with respect, is greater than the current plans to increase internal services.
Current estimates of population growth of the Greater Guelph Area (GGA) include the provincial government estimate of the city’s population will reach 150,000 by 2030. Further, the provincial planners estimate a population of 175,000 by 2050.
This growth is exacerbated by greater volume of daily transportation to Toronto by rail and buses.
Again this growth affects many services but our General Hospital will be hard pressed to maintain the high quality services and needs to this growing population, that not only includes the city but the surrounding municipalities that rely on Guelph General.
Here’s the major problem. Financing major expansion to meet the needs of tomorrow. I believe there is a huge tsunami of people descending on our community over the next 30 years.
In my opinion, this city cannot depend on senior government handouts to finance the growing needs of front-line care and control of health services.
I would hope that the hospital’s Board of Directors has considered the impact of this growth and how to deal with it. It is more than just a bricks and mortar solution, it requires our community to participate expanding our General Hospital.
This means a cohesive long-range plan in which the medical needs of the citizens now and in the future are met.
The past 13 years in Guelph city council has markedly changeds the growth strategies by emphasizing the Community Energy Innovation policies established in 2007. Many of these policies have drained the ability to support hospital expansion necessary to serve a growing population.
The Guelph General Hospital is a major vital public service component that depends on senior government financial support operating under the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan, plus donations to function. The institution cannot charge user fees to patients. It cannot ask the residents; through taxation and dedicated fees to support hospital expansion. The city finances remain tied up, paying for the policies of former administrations,
The city administration does not have the power to raise revenues through a special hospital tax, lottery, or increasing new user fees without provincial approval.
Our community has resources to contribute toward the most important community project the GGA has experienced. The project will require leadership action and pride in achieving what the community has done to participate in a long-term renaissance of a hospital. And it was the community that pulled it off.
The Hospital Board of Directors should show the way with a plan to expand. I am a layman of the science of medicine although I have been on the receiving end of services and care over the years.
In my view there needs to be a goal established with a number attached and the reasons for rationalizing the acute needs in the next 30 years. Or will it take every person, every corporation, every planadjacent municipality, every school from K4 to commencement graduation, every business large or small, every bank or credit union, plus volunteers to execute the grand expansion plan.
I have been involved in raising money. It requires a plan, patience, determination and a good story to sell the goals of the project. Presentation to large-scale potential donors is vital. Professional presentation materials use video of facilities; models of the proposed extensions and retrofitting areas, well-written and colourful leave- behind brochures.
It would be like the United Way on steroids.
In terms of Basketball it would be a full court press.
But first, there must be a plan to meet the needs of the future.
Remember, first complete analysis, then developing a plan, finally how to finance it.
The entire community must be involved and engaged.
There is no time like the present to get it started.