April 23, 2014

Orangeville hospital asks Erin for funding

As published in The Erin Advocate

A request to help fund expansion at the Headwaters Health Care Centre (HHCC) in Orangeville got a polite reception at the Erin Town Council meeting on April 15, but no promises of money.

Councillors will consider support of the hospital in their current budget deliberations, but will also pass on the request to Wellington County. No dollar amount was specified, but hospitals in Fergus, Mount Forest and Palmerston are already asking the County for $9 million for their projects, as part of the “community” contribution required by the Ministry of Health.

Hospital funding is not a municipal responsibility, but the County has been willing to make large contributions from property taxes to supplement local fundraising. If the $9 million is approved (which could be spread over several years), Erin residents would contribute about $1.4 million of property taxes to hospitals they rarely use, and nothing to the hospitals that they frequently use.

“If we’re going to fund hospitals, it should be area-rated,” said Mayor Lou Maieron. “I want money to stay and help the residents of Erin, and if it goes outside county borders, so be it.”

The Orangeville hospital serves a population of about 135,000 people, mainly from Dufferin County, Caledon and Erin. They have provincial funding to cover about 70% of the cost of expanding their Ambulatory Care and Surgical Departments, and are conducting a $16 million local fundraising campaign. The groundbreaking is next January.

Fundraising Chair Bob Burnside told Erin council that Erin residents sought care at Emergency Departments in Ontario 3,151 times last year, and that 42% of those visits (1,312) were to Orangeville. That compares with 24% to Georgetown, 11% to Guelph and 6% to Fergus.

“This number is indicative of the percentage of Erin residents who consider Headwaters ‘their hospital’,” said Burnside.

Headwaters Health Care Centre has asked Dufferin County for $2 million over four years. The County approved $500,000 for 2014, despite the objections of Amaranth Township, which said any donation should be a separate levy, not paid by the entire county. That donation represented about half of the Dufferin County tax increase for 2014.

Erin Councillor Barb Tocher said it has been the tradition for counties to assist hospitals within their own borders. She said local politicians should be lobbying the province for income-based hospital funding.

“It shouldn’t be this way,” said Councillor John Brennan, suggesting that if Erin has to contribute $1.4 million for hospitals, that a portion should be for local needs.

There were 105 private financial donations last year from Erin residents to HHCC.