By Don Crosby for The Standard
Dr. Hamilton Hall is undeterred in his confidence and optimism about the future of a proposed new hospital for Markdale. The world famous back doctor, who lives near Markdale and was instrumental in heading up a massive fundraising campaign that raised over $13 million in cash and pledges for a new hospital, said there was nothing new in the statement by Health Minister David Caplan last week when he said that the Markdale hospital won’t be included in the spring budget.
“What he said, when you strip it all down, is that it won’t go ahead in the foreseeable future. Well, the foreseeable future for a politician is very short. Its next year.” said Hall, adding, “We didn’t expect it to be in this year’s budget. There are a lot of projects, they don’t have the money and they’re terrified of the economy and [Caplan] is being very very cautious.”
Hall said what the minister said last week is exactly what he should saying; that the government doesn’t know for sure when funding for the Markdale hospital will be approved, but that the hospital is still on the list of approved new projects.
Southgate mayor Don Lewis’ suggestion to revamp the style of hospital has already been accounted for in the design of the proposed new hospital which is to have fewer beds than the current building and with a focus on being an emergency out-patient facility. “This is a newer more efficient design…when they built the old hospitals, they built them and then worried how they were going to pay to run them. Those days are gone. Now you address how you are going to run even before you build it,” Hall said.
Hall said everyone involved in the project knew that getting approval for funding would take some time and now, with the downturn in the economy, money is tighter than ever, the government has to look more carefully at where it’s going to spend its money. “There is all kind of infrastructure stuff that needs to be done. And they are scared. They don’t know what to do,” he said
For the past 10 years, governments have examined ways of managing the health care budget with funding going into preventative medicine and community-based family health teams and home care, all the while changing the emphasis of the hospitals back to their original purpose of providing acute care. “But family health teams have to operate somewhere,” Hall said, “The family health team is a good idea but they can’t operate in a field. What facility is it going to be their backup and where is it going to be…when you break a leg, you need a hospital,” he said
Hall said it was decided years ago that the Markdale hospital site was strategically located and needed to survive. And while the decisions was one that was made a long time ago and by a different government the Markdale hospital location is growing in importance between Orangeville and Owen Sound. It may only be a half hour from Owen Sound but it’s another half an hour to Dundalk and it’s another 40 minutes from Dundalk south to Orangeville.
“If you get hurt near Dundalk where are you going to go. Highway 10 is a busy highway that’s getting busier. We are right in the middle. It’s like a donut with services all around us,” said hall, adding, “the ski hills are another story. The place to go if you’re hurt on a ski hill would be Meaford but in the winter when they close the roads where are they going to go now?”
“It’s not the news that I wanted to hear. I’d prefer they’d say you’re going to get your hospital next week…the minister didn’t say no…we’ve been accepted as a project to be done. Now it’s just a matter of when,” Hall said.