Hospital board recognizes 17 years of leadership and brings in a new chair with great neckties. Good omen?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 14, 2012  The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital held their Annual General Meeting and instead of being a real yawner – turned out to be a bit of a fun event with the newly elected chair, Stephen Friday showing not only a tie with vivid colours, something not normally seen in the medical community but also displaying a rich sense of humour.  Thus guy might be fun to work with.

Incoming JBMH chair Stephen Friday - with ties like that, you just have to like this guy.

A relaxed for chair, Susan Busby on the right talks to Board member Brenda Hunter.

Susan Busby, a woman who has served the community for more than 17 years at JBMH, turned the gavel over to Friday but not before the hospital treasurer told the audience that there was a surplus of $22,000 for the fiscal year that ended March 31st.

Financially the hospital is one firm footing.  The Foundation has $12 million of their $60 million in hand; they raised $295,000 at the Crystal Ball.  The Hospital Auxiliary committed to raising $5 million which is a record for this city and probably for any other city near the size of Burlington.

The audience did everything but give President and CEO Eric Vandewall a group hug – can you see him handling that – and went on to hear what Mayor Rick Goldring had to say as their guest speaker.

Before the Mayor got going someone leaned toward me and said “Busby would make a very good Council member”.  Wonder which ward she lives in?

The city and the Hospital are almost at the “sign the agreement” stage on how the $60 million the taxpayers are going to contribute to the re-development will be spent.  Mayor Goldring in his comments pointed out just how big an expenditure that amount is for the city.  “It represents about 50% of the annual tax levy. We will have to borrow to meet the commitment. Our current total debt for the city is approximately $90 million and this will have to be increased.”  So for Burlington – this is not small potatoes.

There was a very nice letter from the provincial Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Deb Matthews to outgoing Chair Susan Busby that was framed and presented to her.

While the dollars are important Goldring was in the room to talk about a “healthy community” and didn’t limit his definition to health to how big are stomachs were or how we felt but saw healthy community as one where everyone was pulling together in the same direction.

The past year has been awkward for the city.  Council didn’t like the idea of being asked to pay for a parking garage and also didn’t feel it was in any sense a partner with the hospital board.  There was tension which Goldring doesn’t feel is part of a healthy community.

He pointed out that Burlington” residents identified the hospital as their  number 1 priority by almost 70%. Residents are clearly willing to contribute, and if need be, see spending controlled in other areas of the municipality.”

Council however is responsible to its taxpayers and they are going to be diligent and ensure that funds are spent wisely.  In other words the city wasn’t going to just write a cheque and leave it at that.

“The hospital and city staff, have been working towards a contribution agreement for about six months now and I believe we have found a way to make this work for all parties.”

“The agreement that we are working to finalize, will see the city contributing $60 million for equipment purchases for the hospital. This gives the residents transparency as to how their tax dollars are being spent.”

“The i’s are being dotted and t’s crossed and we are hopeful that the final contribution agreement will be brought to Committee the week of July 9th with approval anticipated at Council on July 16.”

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna yukking it up with the girls at the JBMH annual general meeting.

While the McMaster University decision to designate Joseph Brant as a teaching facility came as a bit of a surprise to the city Goldring pointed out that the McMaster Halton Family Medicine Centre will add significantly to the level of service at the hospital and provide additional accessibility to care for our community.

Goldring pointed out that the city is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in Canada and he wants the  hospital to reflect that.

Goldring went on to define his idea of a healthy community as being about more than the healthcare system. Using  Canadian Senate Sub-committee on Population Health data he said about 25% of health outcomes can be contributed to our healthcare system.

The other major contributors are education and income, which together are estimated to account for 50% of health outcomes, and the physical environment which accounts for 10% of outcomes. Biology and genetics are thought to contribute the balance.  Municipal government plays  a significant role in the overall health of a community.

There was a time when municipalities owned and ran their hospitals; then the provincial government took over that responsibility and we appear to be going back a bit and looking to the municipality to be a bigger player, which the Mayor appears to welcome.  And to be a player the city needs to be at the table.

Average household income in Burlington is $115,000 per year, which is 25% above the provincial average.  40% of Burlington households have an income over $100,000 .

However, poverty is  a challenge. Although not fully evident to everyone in Burlington, we have almost 10% of the population living at or below the poverty line. We have over 3500 families living in poverty in our community.  Our food banks have become a growth business in Burlington. Over the last two years demand at the food banks has grown by 20% per year.

The City provides affordable opportunities for all. Seniors centers’, libraries, public transit, recreation and cultural events all help to level the playing field and provide an improved and affordable quality of life leading to positive health outcomes.    Municipal Government operates long-term care facilities and supports or provides certain mental health services. We work with the LHIN to fund and coordinate some of these activities, but perhaps not to the level that we each could.  These all dramatically impact the health of our community.

With the City and Region involved in so many of the important areas that impact the overall health outcomes of the community, how should we be working better together?

And that was the critical question – because the hospital and the city have not been able to work together all that well.  When it takes six months to work out how the city’s $60 million contribution is going to be spent – you know there are problems.

Goldring wants the hospital to think aloud with him asking

1. How do we define a healthy Community? What would it look like?

2. How would we measure it? What critical measurements would we focus on?

3. What objectives would we set? How would we establish objectives that were meaningful?

4. How would we prioritize and fund these objectives within our individual areas of responsibility? Would we be willing to give up anything within our silo for the greater good?

5. Could we work together, share information and be more effective and efficient?

6. Understanding all the bureaucratic roadblocks that exist, would we be willing to pilot solutions that make Burlington a Healthier Community?

The city and the hospital haven’t been able to do this so far.

The hospital is now working flat out to get shovels in the ground by the end of the year and will take a site development plan to city council in the fall. The overall layout for the site is shown above.

The near completion of the Redevelopment Memorandum of Understanding is a significant milestone”, said Goldring.  “All of us need to be united 100% behind the work of the foundation and the campaign cabinet and be advocates and contributors in order for us to reach our local share target.

“Let us look at the redevelopment process as the beginning of a much bigger conversation within which we can leverage the positive goodwill in the community and the great work the city and region do so that Burlington will be not only the best city to live in Canada but the Healthiest City.

“That is the question I want to leave with all of us.”

Did they hear the question?  Will they head the question? Time only will tell.  There is a new chair that Goldring knows well and has worked with in the past.  Stephen Friday certainly sounded as if he was open to a new working relationship.  Hopefully he can bring about a better working relationship.

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Water testing indicates the real start of summer. Not all area beaches are safe for swimming yet.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 8, 2012 The Halton Region Health Department monitors the water quality at public beaches throughout Halton. Beach water samples taken on June 5 revealed the following beaches have acceptable levels of bacteria and are safe for swimming:

•       Halton Hills – Prospect Park Old Beach

•       Milton – Kelso Conservation Area

Not all the area beaches are safe yet.

The following beaches have high levels of bacteria and are unsafe for swimming:

•       Burlington – Beachway Park North, Beachway Park South

•       Oakville – Coronation Park East, Coronation Park West, Bronte Park Beach

Residents can also call Halton Region to find out which beaches have acceptable levels of bacteria or which have been posted as unsafe for swimming due to poor water quality. Beach water quality information is available 24 hours a day by dialing 311 or calling 905-825-6000, toll free 1-866-442-5866 or TTY 905-827-9983.  During regular business hours ask for beach information, and after regular business hours press 2 for health information.

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Mayor wants to Inspire: Be younger next year, live strong,fit, and sexy, until 80. Mayor is selling snake oil; sexy author helping.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 6, 2012  Mayor Rick Goldring has upped the ante with his Inspire speaker series – bringing in  motivational speaker Chris Crowley, who has been on the New York Times best seller for a book he co-authored with Henry S. Lodge M.D.  They’ve sold over a million copies and have been translated into 20 languages worldwide.

Crowley a refugee from Wall Street, will be speaking at the Ron Joyce Centre, DeGroote School of Business on June 12, 2012 at 7 p.m.  The online registration is now closed. If you would like to attend – please call 905-335-7607.

Admission is Free and open to all; seats available on first-come, first-served basis with registration. We will be offering a shuttle bus service from the Burlington Downtown Terminal at 6:15 p.m., with one stop at the Burlington Mall in the parking lot on the north west corner at 6:30 p.m. and arrival at DeGroote for 6:45 p.m. The shuttle will return along the same route, leaving DeGroote at approximately 8:45 p.m.

If audience reaction is any measure – Crowley is going to be a smash hit:

“Chris spoke to our manufacturing leadership team last Saturday morning. Wow! What a hit! Everyone is talking about it and they want to know when can he come back! I strongly recommend Chris to anyone, who is interested in improving their health or influencing others too improve. ”

—Dave Clark, VP of Operations, Bath Iron Works (Builder of major, surface ships for the U.S. Navy)

“What a pleasure!…All the audience responses rated you ‘excellent’. THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.”

“From the moment you began until the very end, you had the audience’s undivided attention . You were ENTERTAINING, INFORMATIVE ANED DEFINITELY THOUGHT PROVOKING. You are spreading AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE THAT IS CHANGING LIVES EVERYWHERE. How rewarding that must feel for you. Congratulations and keep up the good work.” ”

Teresa Trembreull, President, The Business Bank, Minneapolis Minnesota

“Chris spoke at the annual retreat of our informal group of senior executives and I have to say he was one of the most inspiring speakers we have ever had over the two decades we’ve been getting together. Our views of the future were completely changed and each one of us is already at work becoming younger next year.”

Joni Evans, Former Chairman — Simon & Schuster, super agent at William Morris etc. New York City

“Let me say how much I and everyone else enjoyed your talk at La Quinta. You were terrific!”

David Beck, President — American College of Trial Lawyers

“What a home run! You were the perfect catalyst and Keynote Speaker for our “Reversing The Aging Process …Symposium….a trumpet call that gives us hope.”

 Bill White, CEO THW Design, International Architects, and Founder, The Vital Nation. Atlanta, Georgia

“He is a terrific speaker, the topic was electrifying and our members loved it.”

 Tom Kittredge, Mountain States Young Presidents Organization. Charleston W. Va.

So – what is all the fuss about?  According to the blurb on the book – here s what Crowley is talking about.

“Turn back your biological clock. A breakthrough book for men—as much fun to read as it is persuasive— draws on the very latest science of aging to show how men 50 or older can become functionally younger every year for the next five to ten years, and continue to live like fifty-year-olds until well into their eighties. To enjoy life and be stronger, healthier, and more alert. To stave off 70% of the normal decay associated with aging (weakness, sore joints, apathy), and to eliminate over 50% of all illness and potential injuries. This is the real thing, a program that will work for anyone who decides to apply himself to “Harry’s Rules.”

Newsweek magazine had this to say:

What can you say about a 70-year-old guy who can kick your butt in spin class? Outdoors, it’s below freezing, and, though technically morning, still dark as night. But there he is, bouncing along on his stationary bike like a jack rabbit and grinning happily at his heart-rate monitor, while I, nearly 30 years younger, manage to keep up only by visualizing coffee. “Just 20 minutes till coffee, just 12 minutes till coffee…”

When the class is over, he places one leg up on the bike seat as if it were a ballet barre and gracefully touches his nose to his knee. Back at his apartment, over a bowl of oatmeal and bananas, he chats nonstop about fitness. The coffee arrives quickly, thank God.

Looks pretty good for a 70 year old. Might be worth listening to.

Meet Chris Crowley, who, together with his doctor, Harry Lodge, is on a mission to change your life. Their fast-selling new book, “Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond,” is a wisecracking but scientifically serious guide to health for middle-aged men who may be looking at their widening paunches, their aging spouses and their fast-approaching retirement dates with helplessness or panic. “Younger Next Year” has one main message: stay very fit and you will live a healthier, happier life, with more sex and less depression, well into your old age. What sets the book apart from its self-help brethren is its ebullient personality–which is mostly Chris’s. Describing himself as “lazy and self-indulgent,” Chris laces his very practical how-to advice with hilarious, self-effacing personal anecdotes, like the time he skied so hard “it hurt to sleep.” Then, just when Chris’s abundant cheeriness starts to grate, 46-year-old Harry steps in with sober chapters on body chemistry, which explain why fitness is the best medicine.

On this point, Chris and Harry are zealots: living a sedentary life is not just lazy, it’s lunacy. That’s why they follow what they call “Harry’s Rules” and think everyone else should, too. There are seven, chief among them: “Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.” And “Quit eating crap.” Any book that advocates an easier way is, says Chris, “horses–t.” A lapsed fitness buff with plenty of excuses–a full-time job, a toddler, a life–I’m hoping these guys can get me back on track.

Chris and Harry met five years ago, when Chris began searching for a doctor in New York City. They liked each other instantly. Both grew up near Boston and share similar, old-school values having to do with discipline and hard work. At their first meeting, Chris was 40 pounds overweight and exercised only sporadically. Harry was already profoundly frustrated by the number of his patients who had diabetes and other “lifestyle” diseases. Harry started preaching the benefits of intense, regular exercise, and it wasn’t long before Chris got religion. He took up spinning, lost 40 pounds and began hounding Harry to help him write this book.

Chris is the flamboyant one: he’s larger than life. Married and a father by 20, he had two more children in quick succession, divorced at 32, made partner at the white-shoe Manhattan law firm Davis Polk at 37, married again, divorced again. After a long stint of dating (see chapter 20 for a wonderful description of a middle-aged man trying to ascend a ladder to a loft bed in a young woman’s studio apartment), he married again in 1993, and this time, “we’re never getting divorced.” Chris writes like he talks, in full paragraphs laced with profanity, but always hammering at his point. “I’m a world of fun and all that, but I’m a closet Virgo,” he says. “Very, very disciplined.”

Harry is the earnest one. Built like a cross-country runner, Harry works out each night on a 1970s-era NordicTrack machine he bought used for $25. He prides himself on being a “mildly Calvinistic Northeasterner. I tend to eat small portions and I don’t like spending money.” His passion is his work, and the quick success of their book fills him with joy. “We think we’re going to start a little revolution,” he says.

As for me, I’m trying. After that humiliating spin class, I vowed to follow Harry’s rules but already I’m slipping. I’ve eaten egg rolls for dinner and brownies for lunch. I’ve skipped scheduled workouts. As inspiring as they are, it turns out Chris and Harry can’t make you go to the gym, and reading their book won’t make you healthier either. The best they can do–and they know this as well as anyone–is give you a kick in the pants.

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Hospital Foundation has $12 of its $60 million in hand, city will use its $60 million to pay for equipment and furnishings.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 29, 2012  They appear to have changed something, maybe it was the water, maybe it was the music – maybe someone spiked the water – whatever – the city and the hospital administration are about to do kissy, kissy and make up.

Mario Joanette, vice president communications for the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital,  attended the Budget and Corporate Services Committee where Council was given an Update on where things are with the hospital.  We wish to report that they are much, much better.

We can now tell you what the $60 million the city is going to give the hospital is going to be spent  on.  We got an upgrade from having our money spent on a parking garage.  The funds the city gives the hospital will be spent on things like operating room equipment, an MRI machine perhaps, furnishings for some of the hospital rooms  – all stuff  the hospital would have had to buy out of their own funds – will now be paid for with money the city provides.

Here roughly is the way that will work – the hospital will buy a piece of equipment and tell the city what it cost and the city will write a cheque and will keep writing cheques until they have spent $60 million.  Pretty straight forward.

Demotion of an older building underway. Site is where the new parking garage will be built. City money will not be paying for this structure.

The city will also work out a list of the kinds of things they would like to pay for – we don`t want to be seen as the donours of just vases for the hospital waiting room.

It took months to get this worked out and over that period of time the hospital has come to realize that the city is just not going to roll over and let the hospital dictate what happens to our money.  It has been a struggle.  Councillor Taylor called the agreement that has been reached a “great compromise”. The hospital administration has had and continues to have a problem with transparency.

During the Committee meeting Councillor Dennison asked how much had been raised at the Saturday evening Gala.  Joanette strode to the podium and said – he wasn’t able to say – but he was able to say that they  raised more this year than last and they had their largest event ever.  Now Councillor Dennison has been at this game a lot longer than Joanette and he asked – `How much did you raise last year?  Joanette couldn’t duck that one – $250,000 he  replied.  So this year the Gala raised more than  $250,000 – Wow, talk about pulling teeth from a hen.

Councillor Dennison knew he was on a bit of a roll and he asked” how much had been raised in donations to the re-development fund?  That turns out to be $12 million – THAT is a very good number.

$12 million certainly isn't chump change - good start to what is going to be a long fund raising campaign. When the voice mail is from Anissa Hilborn - do return the call.

No announcement from the hospital Foundation about that number.  There have been no announcements – the hospital to the best of our knowledge hasn’t said anything – yet.  Actually, it is not the hospital that should be making that kind of announcement – it should be coming from the President of the Hospital Foundation Anissa Hilborn or the Chair of the Fund Raising Committee – Brian Torsney.

Something still isn’t running the way it should at the hospital.  For reasons that aren’t quite clear yet,  the hospital isn’t tied to the community.  That responsibility rests with the hospital board – the members of that Board are the people that are the public’s link to the hospital – but for some reason – that Board chooses not to say much.  They seem to defer to the hospital administration.  And that has resulted in a rocky relationship between the city and the hospital.  It need not be that way – it shouldn’t be that way – but it is.  Unfortunate.

However, there is hope on the horizon.  The hospital will hold its Annual General Meeting in about three weeks and Mayor Goldring will be the keynote speaker.  That may be the first step in closing the rift between the two institutions and will give the Mayor an opportunity to talk about the kind of relationship the city needs with its hospital.

The agreement on where the city’s money will be spent is expected to be final sometime in June when a revised Contribution Plan goes to Budget and Corporate Services July 10th and to city Council July 16th.

With that irritant out of the way the next hurdle is the site plan for the re-development.  That kind of business usually gets handled by the Planning department but it has been un-delegated and is now handled by council  Planners have been meeting weekly with hospital people and they expect they will be ready to come to Council for site plan approval sometime in the fall.  There is considerable pressure to get the site plan approved so that the construction can begin.

Councillor Craven threw a small spanner in the wheels on that one when he reminded Council that the project could not go to a committee for approval until it has been presented to the community and that there are no meetings in August.  That’s a little awkward isn’t it?

What matters for the citizens of Burlington is that their Council has assured itself that the $60 million the city is putting up for the redevelopment will be spent on things the citizens will find useful.  We don’t have to worry about bricks and mortar or watching milestones.  They buy a piece of equipment for a hospital that has already been built and we pay for it.

Later in the year the city gets to see the site plan and approve it.  There will be sufficient public involvement.  The hospital has retained a “design consultant” to prepare a “campus plan” showing the full development of the site that will include the parking garage/administration building and the hospital expansion/redevelopment.

The city planners and hospital people met recently and held a Design Charette to talk through different ideas on what could work and what wouldn’t work.  Submission of the draft campus plan is expected by the end of June – which is where Councillor Craven sees the log jam – if it comes to the city at the end of June it has to go to the community and then to a council committee and then to Council and all that has to happen during the month of July – and that’s not possible with the meeting cycle Burlington uses.

Watch for a Special Council meeting to bunt this one home.

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Those with thick wallets and cheque books have needs too; hospital fund raiser brings understanding and experience to raising money.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 24, 2012  –  The combination of very dark intensive eyes, energy galore and drive to spare, resulted in her serving as president of the Student Council at University of Western Ontario where she ended up doing fund raising for student events.  It was that look into her future at Western that Anissa Hilborn probably didn’t appreciate at the time but something she realizes now – fund raising was to be part of her journey.   She was going to raise funds for organizations that needed financial support.

Anissa Hilborn: Smiles on the job, brings a sophisticated approach to her fund raising work - Saturday night the announcements get made - how much has been raised to date?

After some exceptional fund raising work, which we will come back to, she is now the President of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Foundation and tasked with raising $60 million and perhaps then some in an 18 to 24 month time frame.

She brings a combination of diplomacy, persistence, a lot of class and an ability to fully understand the needs of the donours she is meeting with to the job.

Pulling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to make up that $60 million also calls for a level of management skills.  There is a fund raising Cabinet that Hilborn works very closely with – this is very, very much a team effort.

“Fund raising” Hilborn points out “is an emotional business – you put everything you have into it – and then some.”

First phase of the re-development construction has started - funds have to be raised to pay for the work being done.

Currently a resident of Oakville Anissa and her family (twin girls) plan to move to Burlington when the school schedules can be worked out.

Hilborn serves under Brian Torsney, Chair of the Foundation.  We can expect to see Hilborn serve under a succession of Foundation chairs.

Hilborn has worked for one of the granddaddy of the fund raising groups; the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – an organization that went through a massive transformation from a location where patients with mental health issues were dealt with in a way we couldn’t think of doing today.

The CAMH had to not only re-develop themselves but at the same time had to educate the public on the changing approaches to mental health and then begin raising the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build the kind of organization that could meet the newly identified need.  It was a massive public relations job and a little appreciated fund raising achievement.  Hilborn comes to the JBMH Foundation a fully tested and proven fund raiser.  She certainly has her work cut out for herself here.

Prior to joining the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation Hilborn was with the ErinoakKids Foundation; an organization that dealt with a wide range of physical and/or developmental disabilities, communication disorders, autism.

Hilborn did the fund raising for a foundation that had more than 650 staff and 8 sites from which they provided a comprehensive array of medical, therapy and support services that help children and their families.  ErinoakKids worked from a family-centered philosophy with the focus on the strengths and resilience of their clients and their families.

She will work in much the same environment in Burlington.

Fund raising for the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital comes together this Saturday night when the Annual Crystal Ball is held for the second year at the Mercedes Benz dealership on North Service Road.  It would be less than true to say that some of those attending the event will drive their Mercedes to the dealership and have their cars serviced while they wine, dine and dance the night away.

It will be an important occasion for the fund raising task the Foundation has before it now – there is $60 million that needs to be raised to match the amount the city is required to put up.  The city can tax its citizens, professional fund raisers don’t have that kind of power but they do have the gentle art of persuasion.  Some funds come from corporations who have a policy of supporting the community and a hospital is certainly a vital part of any community.

Some families have created trusts and they have a mandate to distribute the funds they hold to special places.  Hilborn has to convince them that the hospital is a very special place.

Waiting at the Foundation office door for donours to arrive. They will all be treated very, very well.

There are other situations where a family has suffered a tragic loss and they want to use some of their money to create a legacy, a lasting public memory and want to do so in a very unobtrusive yet meaningful way.

“Every donour brings their needs to the table” explains Hilborn “and my job is to be sure I fully understand the needs and am aware of the sensitivities that may be involved.  It is about a lot more than money.”

At the same time there are the realities of the larger world that have to be dealt with.  While the economic health of Burlington is  good – the 2008 recession left some deep scars that are still being dealt with – business isn’t what it used to be and along with being aware of and sensitive to the personal needs Hilborn has to be aware of the economy she is working in.

Holding the Crystal ball at a Mercedes Benz dealership is somewhat removed from the day to day life that the average Burlingtonians who will be using the hospital has to deal with.

The announcements that get made Saturday evening on just where the fund raising is at this point are important – critical actually.  It is vital that the community understand the significance of this first announcement.

The event takes place less than two days from now.  The hairdresser appointments have been made, the gowns are fitted or back from the cleaners.  The men will move from the casual wear that is quite common in many offices to the shiny black shoes and the tuxedos that may have been let out a bit.

Have fun!


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JBMH wants the money but they don’t seem to want to say how they will spend it. They will want a quick site plan approval.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 8, 2012  There was a line from the film Cool Hand Luke, that starred the late Paul Newman, where a prison guard said “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  At the time Newman was doing everything he could not to communicate.  The ending was a tough one.

One got the feeling that while delivering a very brief update to a Council Budget and Corporate Services committee meeting, General Manager Scott Stewart wanted to use those words but chose to be a little more diplomatic, which for Stewart is a stretch at the best of times.

City General Manager Scott Stewart doesn't take this smile to hospital meetings.

Stewart reported that the city had not been able to arrange a meeting with the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) until sometime in August to discuss the Contribution Agreement that is to be signed between the hospital and the city.  That’s the document that is going to take $60 million of your dollars and slide it across the table to the hospital. The city has just over $4.8 million of the $60 million saved already but we are going to have to borrow much of the rest of it so the hospital can begin the build.

Stewart added that it looked as if the agreement would get worked out between the city and the hospital by email; which has got to be about as archaic as it gets – they are less than a twenty minute walk away from each other.  Saying they are not available until sometime in August is basically the same as saying: ‘we don’t want to talk to you, so go away – but send us the money you have to give us’.

Apparently the real reason for not being able to meet before sometime in August is a combination of  vacation schedules, commitments that can’t be broken – we all go through those problems.  However, if you really want to meet – you make it happen.  Unless of course there is a problem that is insurmountable – and that would be what?  Wait for it.  The lawyers, the lawyers can’t clear time for a meeting until sometime in August.

What are the lawyers doing in the room at all?  Surely senior city people and senior hospital people can put together the basics – all we are doing here is setting out what they will do with the money we send them – then give it to the lawyers and let them make sure that all the niceties are covered, shake hands and then deliver the cheque.

Is the city negotiating with the hospital?  We will know when the Contribution gets to a city council committee.

The city is required to help fund the renovation of the hospital and it has taxed its citizens and used a significant portion of last year’s surplus to come up with our share.  The hospital has to raise an additional $60 million.

Burlington does not have a choice in this matter – the province mandated that we give the money to the hospital.  We apparently don’t give the funds directly to the hospital corporation but to the hospital Foundation which in turn passes it along to the hospital.

The relationship between the city and the hospital corporation is getting a little caustic.  The city needs an agreement that sets out a “responsible and timely release of funds” and given that we are going to have to borrow much of our contribution we would like to be able to plan the flow of funds.  Burlington maintains a very strong, positive relationship with the Performing Arts Centre where more than half a million dollars is sent every year.  They find a way to work through the differences with the Seniors basically because they meet and work through the issues.

With the city being required to come up with $60 million, the hospital, one would hope, would accept the fact that they have a new partner and not a junior partner either, and they have to learn to share the responsibility of working with the community to raise the funds and get the hospital to the point where it is not the mess it was when current president Vandewall was brought in.

JBMH president Eric Vandewall is reported to be working on his schedule and making time to meet with the city. Dinner with senior city staff was a good start.

The egos that are at times all too visible, have to be left at the door so that an adult relationship can take place.

When Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital president Eric Vandewall appeared before a city council committee last year he made the statement that the hospital would match the city contribution “dollar for dollar”, which made a number of Council members feel a little better about turning over tax payers’ dollars to the hospital.  That good feeling has come close to evaporating.

General Manager Stewart and the city manager are to have dinner with the hospital president and some of his leading people, which will undoubtedly include VP Communication Mario Joanette – who might manage an explanation as to just what is wrong with the communications.

There have not been any announcements from the hospital foundation on how they are doing on the raising of their $60 million.  We are told that there is a very big announcement coming and to expect a number of announcements at the Crystal Ball Gala, which takes place later this month.  We are told it is a sold out event with more than 100 people learning they could not get a ticket.  This Gala event – and it is quite the event, being held at the Mercedes Benz dealership on the North Service Road, is where the hospital Foundation may announce what it has collected to date in the way of its fund raising efforts.

The Foundation people are good at what they do – they don’t have any problem communicating.  Things are a little different on the hospital administration side.

While the city does its best to meet with the hospital to work through the agreement on how the JBMH people are going to spend the tax dollars we give them – the city’s Planning Department is able to talk to the hospital people about the actual construction of the building – reported to be a seven storey building on land that currently serves as a parking lot.

Site Plan approval for the structure is anticipated in late May or early June with approval expected in September or early October.  So far the public has very little information on what’s going on.  It seems like a ‘send us your money and don’t ask any questions’

Site plan approval will include traffic impacts, archeological investigation, storm water management and public consultation.  The city will have to deal with all this in a relatively short period of time.

The archeological aspects could turn out to be interesting.  The land the hospital was built on is part of the original land grant to Joseph Brant and there are reported to be some strings attached to just what can and cannot be done with that land.

It's supposed to be all about the hospital and its desperately needed re-build. Can they all not just get on with it?

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has been a very strong proponent of ensuring that the public is given every opportunity to comment on developments in the city and has been very vocal about the amount of time the public has to read the reports and given the time to form their opinion.  Meed Ward is a member of the hospital board and while there is an evident conflict in sitting on the hospital board and sitting as a Councillor, especially when there is serious and significant tension over the wording of the Contribution Agreement, but that does not seem to bother Meed Ward.  Can she act for her constituents to ensure they are given the information they need and at the same time sit on the hospital board and argue that information should be made available and that the public, who after all are picking up a significant part of the cost of the redevelopment, be given every opportunity to comment?

Elections cost money.  Anyone running for the office of Mayor needs people who can write the cheques to cover the cost of an election campaign.  Meed Ward doesn’t accept campaign funds from developers but she would be comfortable with getting funds from the kind of people who attend social events with impressive ticket prices.


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Well, so much for that promise. Health Minister says government cannot re-develop JBMH if it loses the budget vote on Tuesday.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 20, 2012   The Minister of Health and Long Term Care Deb Matthews has conference calls with the Mayor and assures him that all is well and the funding for the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital is in place and we’ve no need to worry our heads one little bit.

The Mayor has a meeting with the Minister responsible for Infrastructure Ontario, the government arm that handles the actual construction of major projects, and they explain how that organization works and assures Mayor Goldring that everything is fine.

Then there is an announcement that the hospital is going to get $22.5 million to build the hospital when all the hospital needed short term was $9million.

Somewhere along the way the Premier of the Province strolls into the offices of the local thrice weekly newspaper saying he`d just like to have a friendly chat.  Something like that hasn’t happened before.

Then there are a set of Robo Calls that target Jane McKenna, the Burlington member of the provincial legislature who has been entirely out of the loop on the hospital re-development.  Her predecessor, Joyce Savoline at least visited the hospital and toured the place.

Will Burlington MPP Jane McKenna take a sick day on Tuesday or will she vote against the budget and bring down the government forcing another election? She will be looking at one of the shortest political careers on record if she does.

McKenna gets bush whacked by the phone calls that result in a reported 1000 calls to her office.  McKenna being a bit of a newbie at the game of politics doesn’t handle the situation all that well.

Behind the scenes in all this, is some tough negotiations between the leader of the New Democratic Party and the government.  Andrea Horvath, the NDP leader folds on one of her demands – that the provincial portion of the HST tax be taken out of home heating sales.

The vote on the budget is to take place in four days and the public is crystal clear on not wanting another election.  When it comes to getting into office and having all that power at your fingertips, what the public wants isn’t a significant part of the recipe.  The game is to determine just how close to the wire you can get and still stay in office.  Sort of like adults playing a game of chicken.

What is a citizen of Burlington supposed to do with all this?  The hospital is a mess, it’s actually not a very good hospital – we speak of the structure – not the staff.  The building has had its day and needs to be replaced – quickly.  One basic requirement for any hospital is the ability to quarantine patients if necessary – they can`t do that at JBMH.

Everyone is scurrying around but the hospital says nothing publicly.

The Liberal government puts pressure on both Ted Chudleigh, provincial member for Halton and Jane McKenna.  McKenna crashes the Minister’s tour of the hospital, but then stays in the background.  Why McKenna didn’t confront the Minister publicly, and demand that she meet the promise she made to the residents of Burlington, is beyond me.  There was a missed opportunity to show the people of Burlington that she was standing up for them and not touting the Progressive Conservative party line.

It is going to be an interesting weekend for the politicians.  McKenna might find that she has the flu Tuesday morning and isn’t able to get out of bed and get into the Legislature.  These things do happen – it`s going around you know.

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City re-jigs the organizational structure it will use to work with hospital staff on the re-development of JBMH.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 18, 2012

In a lengthy report to the Budget and Corporate Services committee we got a look at what was a rather messy and less than collaborative working relationship between the city and hospital officials.  The sticking point was the details behind what is called the “Contribution Agreement”  which is the document that will set out when, and under what circumstances, the city will send funds to the hospital for the re-development of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH).

The city was not about to just write out million dollar cheques and blithely send money collected from taxpayers to the hospital. They wanted to know what the money would be used for.

Getting a contribution agreement in place between the JBMH and the city is proving to be very difficult - are egos getting in the way?

When the province decided back in 2008 that the community had to put up $120 million to pay for the re-development,  the city said it would put up $60 million and the hospital Foundation would raise $60 million.  The redevelopment project includes a new tower on the hospital site, new operating rooms and in-patient beds, a new intensive care unit, as well as renovations to diagnostic services and to the emergency department.  That “tower” will be part parking garage, several floors for the Halton McMaster Family Medicine unit and offices for the hospital foundation.  Expect them to get the top floor of the building with a fabulous view out over the lake.

Burlington is putting up $5 million additional dollars for the Family Medical space – that was part of the agreement that included the School of Business which was supposed to be in the downtown core but ended up on the South Service Road.

At a city council meeting last year,  JBMH President and CEO Eric Vandewall said the hospital would match the city’s  money “dollar for dollar”, which at the time seemed to satisfy city council.  But then it became less than clear as to just what the city’s money was going to be used for.  The hospital had not raised its share of the $120 million but it had an urgent need to put up a parking garage and the city got the sense that its money was going to pay for the building of that garage.  The city began to see a situation where it would pay for the building of a parking garage and then see the province plead poverty and cancel the re-development.

At that time there was no iron clad guarantee from the provincial government that the hospital re-development was really going to be fully funded.  Everyone was saying it was going to be funded – but there was nothing definitive from the province.

Councillor Craven chaired the meeting that had to manage a motion that drew three amendments - the motion from Meed Ward eventually lost.

The city put together a “working group”   that consisted of the Mayor, Councillors Craven and Meed Ward.  It later added the Mayors adviser, Frank McKeown to the team.  Problem with the working group was that it just didn’t work and people on the city side of things realized there had to be a structural change.  The mayor was increasingly being drawn into administrative level matters and it had the potential to do significant political damage.

The city began to realize that they needed some help as well,  and decided to bring in two levels of support.  A lawyer with the skill set and experience needed to deal with hospital construction contracts and a consulting firm that would advise the city on how to deal with Infrastructure Ontario, which is the organization that is actually going to handle the construction.

Burlington had learned some very valuable lessons from the construction of the Pier.  They did not have the talent or people with the very specific experience in putting together complex contracts on staff full time.  With the Pier they learned to bring in the outside help for the period of time it was needed.

The new organizational arrangement the city has put in place is designed to overcome the difficulties the city has had with the people on the hospital side.  On too many occasions the hospital cancelled meetings which, from the city’s perspective, were critical.  It was all about money, taxpayers money and Mayor Goldring was just not prepared to see the money roll out of city hall without knowing what was going to be done with taxpayers dollars .

It was Councillor Sharman who asked the tough question: Was every member of the "working" group working independently and in the best interests of the city? It wasn't and was disbanded with a new organizational structure put in place.

Councillor Sharman put things in perspective when he put a direct question to Goldring and Meed Ward asking:  “Are you satisfied that the working group provided objective independent representation that was in the best interests of the city and its taxpayers”.  Sharman clearly thought that the information that came out of the working group was not as objective or independent as it should have been.  Councillor Meed Ward blanched when the question was put to her.  The Mayor said that the new alignment between the city and the hospital was designed to overcome the problems.  Councillor Craven who was chairing the meeting didn’t say a word.

The working group developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was sent to JBMH last December.  A draft Contribution Agreement was received by the city from JBMH shortly after that.  City staff scheduled a series of meetings for January and February 2012 to begin negotiations with the hospital.

Prior to the first formal negotiation meetings, city staff met informally with JBMH staff to discuss the overall project time line, expectations of the parties and to identify if there were any significant areas of concern for JBMH.  City staff were advised that there were no major issues.  The city advised the hospital that it was fully behind the redevelopment, but that a thorough due diligence process was necessary prior to signing a contribution agreement in order to protect the taxpayers investment.

Shortly after JBMH staff advised that they had significant concerns with the draft MOU.  Specifically they were uncomfortable with any conditions related to the release of funds, given that not all factors related to project timing were within their control.  JBMH asked that the scheduled negotiation meetings in January be cancelled.

None of this was made public at the time.  The city continued to salt away taxpayers money and put out press releases saying all was well.

The city took the draft MOU and turned it into a Letter of Understanding (LOU), a document that endeavored to clarify the roles and responsibilities of both parties and sent that along to the hospital. JBMH then cancelled the negotiation meetings that were planned for February and didn’t respond to the LOU.

This is all very confusing to the average citizen who just wants to know that there will be a bed for them should they require medical attention – the average citizen would ask – “does all this really matter to me.  Let the people we hire work all this out.”

One can take that attitude, but had the Jackson administration and the one before it insisted on the hard nosed due diligence the Goldring administration is demanding – of the hospital now, the city wouldn’t have the mess it has had to go through with the Pier.  There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things.

Thus when Councillor Meed Ward put forward motion to take out the strategic consultants and cut back the amount for legal fees by more than half – the only vote she got was her own.  It was embarrassing and was pretty clear, look at what was wrong with the working group.

Councillor Meed Ward was in the very awkward position of being a member of city council and a member of the JBMH board and thinking the interests of both were the same.

What adds to the confusion in all this is that Meed Ward is a member of the hospital board.  It is difficult to see how she can be true to the interests of the hospital and true to the interests of the city at the same time.  She might say that the two are the same, which is a very naive view of the way different organizations work together. City manager Jeff Fielding pointed out to Council that in his 15 years as a city manager he had not handled deals at the $60 million level.  This is big stuff and we need to be very careful.

The original working group was tasked with seeking public input on the municipal contribution to the redevelopment of the hospital, coordinate communications with the public and ensure regular dialogue between the hospital and the city.  What transpired wasn’t so much dialogue but rather turf wars and consistent misunderstandings between the hospital and the city with the public being told next to nothing

The public didn’t get very many chances to say what it felt – other than they wanted a newer hospital.  The city fell down a little on letting its taxpayers know just how messy things had gotten.  The Mayor just kept putting out statements that the city was 100% behind the re-development of the hospital. His office  still has some things to learn about communicating.

However, the report that went to the city’s Budget and Corporate Services committee laid everything out, and while less than fully transparent, it does indicate that things were messy and getting worse so they put in a new organizational structure and asked for the technical and legal support they needed.

It was while this was being discussed that Councillor Meed Ward then proceeded to figuratively blow her brains out publicly when she chose to oppose two of the recommendations staff had come forward with.

While doing so she managed to create a situation where there were four different amendments in play and a chair that really wasn’t sure just where the proceedings were as he worked with his Clerk who slowly untangled the knot the committee had gotten itself into.  Meed Ward had a motion, Councillor Taylor had an amendment and Sharman had an amendment to the Taylor amendment.  It was beginning to look like a high school debating club.

The issues that were being debated were on the four recommendations set out in the report which were:

Retain a lead negotiator to draft the contribution agreement. The negotiator would have experience in provincial funding and would understand the role of Infrastructure Ontario and alternative finance projects.

Hire a strategic consultant to ensure a transparent, accountable and rigorous process for signing an agreement with the hospital.

Bring the planning portion of the hospital redevelopment—site plan approval—to City Council for discussion.

Disband the city’s hospital redevelopment working group.

The costs involved for the legal counsel and strategic counsel amounted to $50,000, which Meed Ward thought was far too much money.  She didn’t think the city needed anyone to tell then how to deal with Infrastructure Ontario but that if there were questions to be answered then Infrastructure Ontario would send some people out to talk to Council.

Scott Stewart did point out the Infrastructure was not exactly a neutral party in all this.  He got that right.  Infrastructure Ontario is going to spend the $60 million taxpayers are going to come up with and the city wants their own expert helping them through this.  No more pier type mistakes.

Meed Ward wanted to do away with the strategic council that was recommended and wanted to cut back by much more than half the amount staff felt was needed for the legal help.

Mayor Goldring was beginning to be damaged politically by the differences with the executive level at the hospital. He wasn't able to say there were problems that were not being resolved without sounding as if he was not 100% for the hospital re-development.

Politically it was getting awkward for the Mayor.  Publicly he had to always be seen as being very positive.  The difficulty was that he was being drawn into day to day problems which were certainly serious enough but these were not battles he should be fighting.  The Mayor needed to be seen as the General in all this, directing able troops.

The new alignment has the Mayor dealing with the top person on the hospital side, board chair Susan Busby

The hospital’s working team now has to align with Scott Stewart and the people with him as well as the legal talent that has been brought in.

A team consisting of  Scott Stewart, general manager community services, Joan Ford, acting executive director of finance and Cathy Robertson, Director Roads and Parks Maintenance.  This is the team that will handle the negotiations for the city.

And then came the announcement from the province that it had confirmed a contribution of $22.5 million to the re-development of JBMH.  While the city is pleased with that news, it doesn’t lessen the need to complete the due diligence process and get the details of the Contribution Agreement worked out.

The city has its negotiating team in place and the Mayor has asked the chair of the hospital board to have her people meet with the negotiating team as soon as possible.

Two additional steps were taken.  The Working Group was disbanded – which takes Councillors  Craven and Meed Ward out of that loop and gets the Mayor out of the middle of all this messiness.  The other decision was to un-delegate this file.  Traditionally city council makes decisions and hands the file over to staff to get the job done.  That is called delegating.

Un-delegating means that it now sits with Council to whom staff will provide regular updates, just the way they did with the Pier project.

Mayor Goldring summed up the city`s position very well when he said: . “As stewards of Burlington property taxpayer dollars, we want to ensure we are both transparent and accountable as we make that vision a reality.”

The city and the hospital have relied heavily on provincial cabinet member Ted McMeekin who operates to the west of Burlington in the constituency of  Ancaster – Dundas – Flamborough – Westdale.   While Burlington has an MPP she hasn’t bee very visible.

Burlinggton MPP is target of Robo Calls claiming her decision not to vote for the Liberal budget could result in the JBMH re-development being held up.

A set or Robo Calls Wednesday evening (Robo Calls are telephone calls made automatically to a list of telephone numbers which in this instance were to the homes of Burlington residents).  The calls, from an unidentified source advise the listener that the provincial government was funding the JBMH to the tune of $22.5 million but that Jane McKenna, the Burlington MPP,  was going to vote against the Liberal governments budget which would bring down the government, force an election and maybe cause delays in the re-development of the JBMH.  Listeners were told on a number of occasions during the call that all they had to do was press 3 on the telephone and they would get put directly through to Jane McKenna’s office.  When a listener pressed 3 the call was put through and Jane McKenna’s voice came on line.  Her office was closed – leave a message please. The calls put McKenna in an awkward position.  She does have options.

Who sponsored the Robo Calls?  Want to guess?





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They do work, inconvenient yes, but seat belts, have been around for 36 years and really do work.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2012  Has it been THAT long?  Thirty six years? Just to remind us that the things really do work the Halton Regional Police announced today that they will be on the prowl the week of April 14 – 22nd with their Spring Seat belt Campaign.

While, apparently, 95% of us “buckle up” sadly, motor vehicle collisions are still the leading cause of injury-related deaths among children and youth and it is mandatory for anyone who transports children to ensure they are properly secured in an infant seat, child car seat, or booster seat.

When installed correctly, child car seats can dramatically reduce the risk of death for infants under age one, and children aged one to four.

The Halton Regional Police Service will utilize a multi-faceted approach during the campaign, assigning all three District Response Units, uniform patrol officers and volunteers to the task of catching those who don’t “buckle up” and reminding us or perhaps ticketing us..

Deputy Chief Bob Percy wants you to know he is overseeing a multi-faceted program to remind you to "buckle up". He is arranging to have those who don't to be ticketed.

Deputy Chief Bob Percy remarked, “Despite traditionally high compliance rates, our Service will continue to educate motorists and enforce seat belt legislation to serve as a reminder the importance of proper use of restraints, child car seats and booster seats.”

My personal experience with seat belts got very “up front and personal” when a car swerved in front of the van I was in – the air bag protected the driver, the seat belt kept me in the car – but did crack my sternum.  Without that seat belt I would have gone through the windshield.  Want to thank that nurse at the York Regional Hospital for the great care as she watched over me in the their  Intensive Care Unit.

The things do work – so “buckle up”.


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Look for hospital ground breaking in December; they might have to use a jackhammer which would be appropriate.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 28, 2012  Did you hear the one about the two cars driving west along the QEW?   You really don`t want the details but there were two vehicles that came back to civilization from the Big Smoke where they were locked up in a room with thick documents in front of them.

Burlington sent two of its brighter lights into the city to take part in that budget tradition of locking up a bunch of journalists in the same room where they could swap tales and then rush through the document and write up their stories.  In the days when Toronto had three daily newspapers each looked for an angle that was unique to its audience.

Today the “lockup” has more lobbyists in the room than actual journalists, each there to put a specific spin on the budget.

Two of Burlington's best spent much of Tuesday locked up in a room reading the budget document.

Having done that sort of thing with federal budgets I chose not to walk into the room but Mario Joanette, VP Communications for the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, and a political junkie if there ever was one, drove into town, snagged a good parking spot because he knows his way around the Legislature and settled in for a day with his chums.

Frank McKeown on the other hand had never been in a  “lock up”`so  for him it was a totally new experience.  It will be interesting to hear what he learned.

The news out of the budget was good for Burlington and its hospital hopes and good for the municipal sector overall.   Neither Joanette nor Mayor Goldring were totally surprised by the news.  Joanette says the hospital is on track and are close to having a “functional plan”  – should be done in a couple of weeks then it goes to the technical people and the architects.  “We are still on for the start of construction sometime in December, states Joanette.

Henry Decker is the Director at the hospital who will oversee the actual construction from the hospitals perspective..

Mayor Goldring is very pleased to see the announcement out there for everyone else to see.  Goldring has been in continued contact with people at Infrastructure Ontario, the people who will handle the construction of the hospital and handle the different tendering’s and bid selections.  He has had conversations with the Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Deb Matthews,  who was re-assuring in her conversations but she wasn’t the Minister of Finance – and that’s where the financial decisions were made.

The hospital has relied heavily on Ted McMeekin, the Minster of Agriculture in neighbouring Flamborough constituency.  McMeekin clearly did great stuff for Burlington but wasn’t able to save the Grimsby hospital.

With the doubt that was in the air now gone the mood in the city will get more positive.  Hospital Foundation Fund Raising Chairman Brian Torsney can now get out his telephone list and start making calls.  His Board can expect a breakfast meeting to be called real soon; they have some catching up to do.  The city of Burlington has $8.4 million of its $60 million share in the bank collecting interest.

Mayor Goldring expects the agreement between the hospital and the city to be completed “shortly”, which isn’t exactly a unit of measurement, and suggested that it could be up to eight weeks before the document gets to City Council.

This is the crew that will head up the raising of $60 million from the community. Back row (l-r): Elizabeth Law, Susan Moore, Carmela Friday, Stephen Friday, Brian Heagle, Mel Griffin, Peter Hogarth, Michael O'Sullivan, Randy Smallbone (Treasurer) Front row (l-r): Kevin Brady, Eric Vandewall, Brian Torsney (Chair), Brenda Hunter (First Vice Chair), Anissa Hilborn (Foundation President)

While there were doubts, concerns and a lot of questions about the redevelopment of the hospital,  the budget read on Tuesday has put those to rest.  The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital is going to be redeveloped – you won’t recognize the place when they are finished.  The only thing that can change the plans at this point is the government failing to get  its budget passed in the Legislature and the calling of an election.  How will Burlington’s MPP Jane McKenna vote on this budget – will she follow her political party or will she vote for the hospital re-development her constituents want so dearly,  and for which she campaigned for during the October election.  Politics is a funny business at times.

The hard hats for the ground breaking ceremony that could take place in December are on order.

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The JBMH is safe – the project will go forward. Funds are in the budget – and as long as the government isn’t defeated JBMH is a go.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 27, 2012      Here is the flash we got from Frank McKeown who was in the lock up reading the 450 page plus budget document:  Jbmh remains in the budget.  So there you have it – straight from the horses mouth.

Burlington had at least two people in the room where they get to sit and read the budget document but can’t leave the room or use their cell phones until the Minister of Finance stands up and reads the document.

Great drama and all kinds of fun being in a room with perhaps as many as 100 people who have read the same document each looking for whatever take their organization has on things financial.

Frank McKeown, top aide and thinker in the Mayor`s office, was there to get a better sense of what Burlington needs to do to improve its relationship with the provincial government.

Mario Joanette, VP communications for the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, was also in the room.  He wanted to be absolutely certain that his hospital was not on any cancellation list.

The budget document said:

Reducing hospital investments, including cancelling four previously announced major hospital projects and rescoping two others, will result in reduced borrowing of $570 million. The government will continue its investments in more than 30 new major hospital projects, in addition to the 25 major projects currently under construction.

 Previously announced major hospital projects to be cancelled are West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Redevelopment; Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre — Replace Hemodialysis Unit; South Bruce Grey Health Centre (Kincardine) — Emergency and Ambulatory Project; and Wingham and District Hospital — Phase 1 Ambulatory and Inpatient Project.

Next steps: Well, once the Champagne glasses have been put away and the high fives are done – the hospital people will get down to work and make this really happen.  The city and the hospital still have to work through the agreement that determines what the hospital will do with the money the city sends their way, but the budget announcement will make everyone feel quite a bit better.

Brian Torsney, head of the fund raising campaign for the hospital, now has to ramp up his fund raising team and begin to pull in those dollars so that the Hospital Foundation can begin to show what portion of the $120 million they have to raise on a 50/50 basis with the city.  Burlington has more than $4 million of its $60 million in the bank.

Is this a good thing for Burlington?   We can wait till later in the week to address that issue.  It’s a done deal and that is what most people in Burlington wanted – so let’s get on with it.



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Less posturing, less fog and misleading comments on what the provincial budget will mean to the JBMH re-development.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 24, 2012  It would be nice to know that there has been a meeting that involved senior people at city hall and senior people at the hospital and ideally our provincial MPP,  where they attempted to set out what the options for the city  and its hospital are when the provincial budget is released on Tuesday.

The likelihood of Jane McKenna being at the table are slim – she has been left out of the loop having to do with the hospital.  Senior staff at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital rely on Ancaster – Dundas – Flamborough – Westdale  MPP Ted McMeekin to speak for them and plead their case.

The provincial government commissioned a document that came to be known as the Drummond Report.  The purpose of the report was to tell the government where savings could be found and point to some possible directions for the government.  One decision was to sell the LCBO warehouse on the waterfront in Toronto but it went much deeper than small cosmetic changes. The report made it  very clear:  there had to be very deep and significant cuts in spending which were set out in the 346 recommendations made in the 945 page two volume report.

Premier Dalton McGuinty made it clear that he was not going to cut classroom sizes nor was he prepared to ease up on all day kindergarten plans.  He was prepared to ask teachers to get by without a pay raise for two years but that was as far as he was prepared to go with education cuts..

It was clear that infrastructure spending was going to be cut and that hospital construction was going to feel the impact.  Pre budget comments from anyone is more than a “mugs” game; budget leaks are a no, no and anyone who says they have spoken to someone “who knows” is spinning fog and deliberately misleading.

There have been reports that Mario Joanette, vice president communications knows for sure that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development is not going to be included in the cuts.  Joanette just doesn’t know that for certain.   The only way he could know is if Treasurer Jim Flaherty whispered the words in his ear, and if that whispering took place on St. Patrick’s Day then it doesn’t count.  Joanette, like everyone else, will know what is going to happen by the end of the day on Tuesday, when the budget is read out in the provincial Legislature.

If the re-development of the hospital is the best thing for Burlington, then the project should proceed, if the government can afford it.  It is not my belief that re-developing Joseph Brant is the best thing for the community nor do I believe the government has the money to do the job.  My view is that at best, the JBMH project will get pushed back to 2017.

What responsible politicians and bureaucrats should be doing is gathering in a room and trying to set out just what the options are if the government moves a starting date back or, what the city does if they take this re-development right off the table.

The city is certainly doing its share to pay for the community portion of $120 million: $60 million from the Hospital Foundation and $60 million by the city.  Burlington has already set aside more than $4 million in a reserve fund that will get sent along to the hospital once there is an agreement in place as to just what the money is to actually be spent on.  At this point the Memorandum of Understanding is still unsigned.

What has become clearer recently for the public is that the “parking garage” is quite a bit more than a place to store cars.  It is going to be the location for the Family Medicine Practice that McMaster University has said they want to locate on the JBMH property.  McMaster has basically diddled the city on just about every project they have done with the city.

McMaster announced recently that their “preferred” location for the Family Medicine Practice was on the hospital property.  The agreement between McMaster University, the Region and Burlington had an Amendment that defined just what was meant by Health Care and where it was to be located – ”within the boundary of the mixed uses centre” of the city of Burlington.  The Health Care part is now known as the Family Medical Practice which we now know is going to be part of the parking garage that was talked about at all the city council meetings.  Along with the parking garage, the structure will include two floors of medical services space that is to be a minimum of 10,000 square feet and the offices of the Hospital Foundation.  The structure is reported to be seven storeys high.

Quite how one describes the JBMH complex as part of the downtown with a straight face is beyond me.  Ian Ross, Executive Director of the Burlington Art Centre, will tell you that he doesn’t see his buildings as part of the downtown core and the hospital is west of the Art Centre.  Those academics sure know how to twist language.

The first thing that has to happen is the creation of a common agenda.  Differences aside – we are all in this together – and we all rely on the provincial government to provide funding and right now our provincial government is close to broke.  The impact of the 2008 recession still lingers, to which has to be has added, the significant structural shift taking place in the Canadian economy.  Ontario, once the engine of the country’s economy, is now struggling as it transforms  itself out of the manufacturing sector into – well the province isn’t quite sure what it is going to transform into.  What it does believe it knows is that we are going to have to have a well-educated work force and thus the decision to pump money we do have into education.

That doesn’t relieve the leaders of Burlington from their responsibilities – and that is to figure out how we will deal with a decision that says “no provincial money” for Burlington for maybe as much as five years.

For something like this to work however, everyone has to come to the table and agree on a common agenda.  Right now we have McMaster still taking advantage of everyone.  Burlington is still paying McMaster the $10 million it agreed to pay if they located some of the facilities in the city.  The DeGroote School of Business did come to Burlington and there was at one point a sign on the Elizabeth Street parking lot announcing it was to be built at that location but, someone else with land to sell got in between the city and the University and the DeGroote School of Business is now out on the South Service Road..

Does Burlington hand over the $4.8 million it has in the bank and continue to pass along the $60 million they have committed tax payers to over the next six years?

The hospital foundation hasn’t exactly been issuing press release after press release telling us that they now have $20 million; now thirty million and getting close to forty five million in the bank.  Hospital CEO Eric Vanderwall boldly told Burlington city council that the hospital would match the city dollar for dollar in fund raising – don’t think they can do that today.  The people with the fat wallets seem to be sitting on them.  The one thing the public has seen is a two page full colour spread in a local newspaper with pictures of the fund raising committee.  We hope that space was a gift from the newspaper.

What does the city do if the government says: “Yes, but not right now – and we will tell you when.”  Well what can we do?  Tell the ambulance to head for Hamilton is one option.  The new Oakville hospital is under construction and the flow of funds to that site will not stop so that’s an option – as long as your need for serious surgery can wait that long.

Burlington Council member John Taylor thinks there is a better way to pay for the hospital and has asked that the city look into funding the $70 million city portion with some form of a bond that would be available to the public.

Right now when Burlington has to go to the public financial markets for funds, which we do every year, we tally up what we need and take that number to the Region.  Their treasurer adds up what each of the municipalities in the Region needs and then goes to the public markets and gets the best deal possible deal for the debenture they put on the market.  Municipal debt is seen as good risk.  The Region, as Chair Gary Carr will remind you, has a better credit rating than the United States of America.

The provincial government will announce on Tuesday where they will cut spending. It is expected to be drastic and may well impact on JBMH re-development plans. No one really knows what is going to happen. Any commment made is misleading and irresponsible.

Taylor’s view is that some of the debt the Region sells could be set up in such a way that it qualifies for inclusion in an RRSP for even an RESP.  While it takes a little more effort, the Region might have enough clout in the financial markets and be able to cut out some of the middle men in the game and keep the administration costs on these things lower than usual.  Are there enough people in Burlington, or the Region for that matter, to take up several hundred million so that Burlington could raise the money on its own and proceed with building the hospital with money  ‘invested’ by the community.   Taylor has enough people who think the idea has some merit and will be meeting with Regional people to see what’s possible.

The province doesn’t have the money but they do have a credit rating and we could – maybe – sell some of the bonds to the province and have them pay Burlington citizens back in 15 to 20 years when the bonds mature.  Regional debentures will certainly pay more than the miserable return the banks are giving these days and they are as solid as Canada Savings Bonds.

There are all kinds of possibilities but we have to get off our butts and do some of this thinking for ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us.



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If done properly it could be made into a fun event and one that could save their lives. Plan on this one.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 17, 2012  The Burlington Fire Department  has an idea for your family on Family Day.  Not quite the same as goofing around and doing nothing.

The fire department is asking families to make a home fire escape plan and practice it as part of their Family Day activities on Monday, Feb. 20.

This little girl got out of the house - the tragedies are when people don't make it out during a fire. Plan an escape on Family Day

“Everyone is responsible to ensure they know what to do if a fire occurs in their home,” said Public Education Officer Lisa Cockerill. “If there is a fire in your home, it’s important to be alerted by working smoke alarms so you can quickly execute your family’s escape plan.”

Simple steps for home fire escape planning include:

Install smoke alarms on every storey and outside sleeping areas. It’s the law. For the best protection, install smoke alarms in every bedroom.

Develop a home fire escape plan; discuss it with the entire family and practise the escape plan.

Check that all exits are unobstructed and easy to use.

Determine who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults or anyone else that may need assistance.

Choose a meeting place outside, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for.

If caught in a smoke-filled area, get low and go under the smoke to the nearest safe exit.

You can too escape safely from fires that rage like this.

Call the fire department from outside the home, from a cell phone or neighbour’s home.

Once out, stay out. Never re-enter a burning building.

Doesn’t sound very cool does it, common sense seldom is “cool” to the younger people.  But we’re not talking to the younger set; we are talking to parents and as you take the GO or drive to work on Tuesday you might think about the important thing you did for your children – and it could be made into a fun event.

You may have only seconds to safely escape your home. Practice your home fire escape plan and know where to meet outside the home to save your life and the lives of loved ones.


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Region and McMaster name JBMH as preferred site for Family Health Care: is Burlington really on side for this?

 By Pepper Parr

Burlington, Ont. –Jan. 26, 2012—McMaster University has selected Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital as the preferred site for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre, the city, Halton Region, McMaster University and Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) announced jointly today.  Nice news, but notice the city of Burlington isn’t in that list of names.

Now, pay very close attention to the language used – the JBMH is their preferred site, which is a long mile away from being THE site.  The decision isn’t theirs to make – theirs being McMaster, the Region or the JBMH.

“This is an important announcement for Burlington, and demonstrates a partnership that is devoted to enhancing health care in our city,” Mayor Rick Goldring said today at the Burlington Convention Centre during his State of the City address. “Creating a teaching hospital here in Burlington will raise the quality of health care for the people of Burlington and provide a great complement to the redevelopment of Joseph Brant hospital.”

It might – but isn’t there going to be a teaching element at the new hospital being built in Oakville?  Does anyone really think that the province, who happen to be a little short of cash these days, is going to build a teaching hospital in Burlington?  Great if we can get it – but I don’t think it’s in the cards girls and boys.

The city and the region have committed $10 million to McMaster University as part of the Ron Joyce Centre, housing the DeGroote School of Business, on South Service Road.  This project included a commitment by McMaster to open a Halton McMaster Family Health Centre in downtown Burlington.

Well, McMaster has reneged on Burlington in the past (recall the plans – heck even an announcement and a sign saying parking lot # 4 on John Street was going to be the home of the McMaster/DeGroote School of Business – but somehow the buildings migrated a bit to the south and east of our downtown core.

The Oakville hospital is under construction. Their Foundation has raised more than $18 million. Staff have donated $675,000. JBMH doesn't even have a sign announcing their re-development. There is a drawing.

“One of the key initiatives in the Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan is to attract new physicians to establish medical practices in Halton,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr. “A partnership such as this will help to bring new physicians to the Region, and give more residents access to a family doctor.”

The new Oakville hospital is under construction. Hamilton has two hospitals. Is the provincial government going to pay for a large new hospital when there are hospitals less than a 15 minute drive away? Tough to do when the province admits they don't have any money. There are more than 30 other communities looking for money to build hospitals. Milton is in desperate shape.

Doctors are going to come to Halton Mr. Carr but they will be settling in at the NEW Oakville Hospital where there is already a hole in the ground with a fixed price contract signed and more than $18 million raised buy their hospital foundation – of which more than $675, 000.00 came from the staff.

McMaster anticipates using two floors, and about 15,000 square feet (1,394 square metres), of Joseph Brant as part of the Phase 1 project.  All parties hope to be operational at Joseph Brant by the end of 2013.

These guys have taken the Liberal Party resolution to allow the public sale of marijuana too seriously and are clearly setting aside some of their allowance money to buy good weed and a little less on single malt.  McMaster wants those two floors of space and if they have to jerk the public around to get it – well tough on the public.  We’re talking turf here people, not to mention budgets.

“Although we are still working through our approval process, we know this location for the family health centre will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen our ties to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital for the benefit of the hospital, the residents of Burlington and Halton and the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine,” said Dr. David Price, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. “This centre will also serve our expanding family medicine program in the Region.”

Pipe dreams, pipe dreams and terribly mis-leading.  2013? – they won’t even have a hole in the ground by then.

Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, added: “This is an important step of our move towards having learners from our medical school and many of our health science programs involved in health care throughout Halton.”

The site plan application for Phase 1 will be submitted to the city’s planning and building department in May. Public consultation will help the community better understand the plans at Joseph Brant.

Are these people assuming that the Memorandum of Understanding between the city of Burlington and the JBMH will be signed by May?  It’s been, what, five months in the making so far.  There are people on Burlington city council who don’t want as much as a dime moving out of the reserve fund that has something in excess of $4.8 million in it at the moment.  If one counts the votes on the Burlington city council – I don’t think there are enough to slip this one past the public.

If this Burlington city council gives the JBMH any of the money raised through a special tax levy and all the city has to show for it is a parking garage – every member of council is at risk of not being elected.  Burlington has put up with The Pier debacle and are going along with their Mayor and his decision to complete The Pier.  They will not go along with paying $60 million for a parking lot.

On Aug. 10, 2011, the province confirmed that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development project is approved. This project, with a budget of more $300 million, will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital.

You do recall dear readers that we were in the middle of a provincial election and the Liberals were going to say whatever they had to say to stay in office.  One of the things they said was that Burlington was going to get its hospital.  Recall too, that the Minister who was on her way to Burlington to deliver that good news didn’t make it.  She didn’t make it at the polls either – she lost her seat.

“We are very pleased to have the new Halton McMaster Family Health Centre on our hospital site,” said Dr. Dwight Prodger, Chief of Staff at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. “There will be many benefits to Burlington and area residents with the HMFHC being located here including improved access to family medicine and specialist physicians and it will also help increase the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain new physicians.”

They will be pleased as punch to get a teaching hospital settled in at the JBMH..  Using lines like “very pleased to have” suggests this is a done deal.  Go back to that headline – a teaching facility is their “preferred” location. 

The project will proceed in two Phases. The hospital will begin with an RFP process and tender on Phase 1 in 2012 and construction in 2013. Phase 2 will go through a similar process with the tender award in 2014.

This sounds a little like the early stages of The Pier – recall that there was a plan that called for a much larger pier but when the prices came in – well things got cut back a bit.  Expect lots of cutting back on this one as well.  It just might get cut right back to the tap root.

In December 2009, City Council approved a municipal contribution of $60 million for the proposed hospital redevelopment plan.  The city is working on a Memorandum of Understanding and contribution agreement with the hospital that will outline when and how Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital will receive the city funding.

This is true.  The when and how of those funds moving from the city’s bank account to the hospitals is far from settled.

The city began collecting $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011 through a special tax levy. City Council earmarked $2.4 million from previous years’ surpluses, and now has $4.8 million committed in a reserve fund earning interest. The tax levy amounts to $4 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

This is also true but it doesn’t mean that we are going to see a teaching facility at the JBMH.

The city has shown leadership in committing $60 million for the hospital redevelopment, and taxpayers have confirmed they think this money should be spent on improving our community hospital.

This too is also true – more true is that city put their money where their mouths are.  The JBMH Foundation has yet to announce that they have raised as much as a dime.  They did have a nice group photo taken.

The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment  and expansion is a $300 million-plus project. The planned civic contribution is $120 million. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign in addition to the city’s contribution of $60 million.

Nice statement but no announcement from the Hospital Foundation as to how much they have raised.  There are a number of traditional major donors who are keeping their cheque books in their pockets.  When the redevelopment of the hospital is real – they will write cheques.

A telephone survey by Ipsos Reid in November 2009 found strong public support for the hospital redevelopment project and for a municipal contribution. Ninety per cent of Burlington residents surveyed agreed the project was important, and 72 per cent of those surveyed were supportive of the project when told about the proposed $60 million municipal contribution.

So?  Can you imagine anyone saying they don’t want an improved hospital..  Burlington people are quite decent and they would see the need for the city to pay a portion.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was built in 1961. The last major update and refurbishment was more than 40 years ago. The redevelopment of the hospital is expected to include: 10 new operating rooms, a new intensive care unit, 76 new in-patient beds, an enlarged and improved cancer unit, new diagnostic imaging and laboratory areas, enlarged parking facilities; and  an expanded outpatient surgical suite.

Those enlarged parking facilities are where the Burlington tax dollars are going to go.  Someone needs to put a hobble on all this.



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Cable re-broadcast of important program on health services in Ontario.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 10, 2012  –  The Mayors Inspire program that featured Andre Picard will be re-broadcast on Cogeco Cable at 9:30 pm on January 12, 2012 – well worth watching..  You will get to hear one of the best thinkers on public health policy in the country, who will explain just what it is we have in the way of a public health system in Ontario and where it is likely to go.

The Picard talk, given at a time when the direction for health services in Burlington is less than certain, helps to understand the financial challenges the province faces and sets aside many of the myths that surround public health services.

This presentation was the last of four Mayor Rick Goldring sponsored during 2011.  They have proven to be quite a success – the last filled the Community Studio Theatre at the Performing Arts Centre.  Goldring expects to sponsor another series in 2012.



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That didn’t hurt now – did it? Hospital CEO’s now have to open the kimono and show it all.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 4th, 2012  –  There, that didn’t hurt now did it?  Remember those words from your first visit to the doctor?  It was a new experience for you and one you would get used to for the rest of your life.  A similar experience came across the desk of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital CEO and President Eric Vandewall this week.  Ontario’s Freedom of Information legislation was made to apply to the medical community and JBMH had to post the information on its web site.  Now anyone and everyone can log in and see what the man is paid.  There is nothing exorbitant in Vandewall’s contract.  Some of his colleagues elsewhere in the province, particularly across the Bay, do much better.

Liberal candidate in the provincial election Karmel Sakran shares a smile with JBMH CEO Eric Vandewall at an event where everyone hoped a provincial government minister was expected to show up with a funding announcement. Sakran at the time was a member of the hospital Board and was in line to become chairman of the hospital board but resigned when he ran for office - and lost. Sakran's signature appears on Vandewall's employment contract as a witness.

To spare you the trouble of going through the 10 page agreement we can tell you that the hospital hired Vandewall in June of 2010 at a salary of $325,000 plus a car allowance of $1000. a month.  He has to pay for parking like everyone else, which is more than can be said of Burlington city council members, but then they don’t get the big bucks that Eric gets.

In December of this year Vandewall’s salary was increased to $338,428.  But there was a hook added to the compensation agreement.  $17,767. of that salary is “at risk”, meaning that it is possible for Vandewall to not to actually get the full $338,428. in his contract.   Has to earn this portion of his salary by meeting designated objectives outlined in the Hospitals’ Quality Improvement Plan.  Personally, I hope for Vandewall that one of the objectives isn’t his getting real money from the province to rebuild his hospital. I think the province is going to stiff him because it just isn’t going to have the money.

That level of detail in the contract “designated objectives” portion of the contract is something best left to the hospital Board.  You have to trust them to hold Vandewall accountable and to behave responsibly as a Board.  One small quibble – the information that was to be made public effective January 3rd wasn’t actually available until sometime in the mid-afternoon – a small detail and hopefully not a telling one.

It is a new day for hospital administrators.  They are paid out of the public purse and are responsible to the public.  Accept the change or leave the profession and work in the United States where the dollars are much, much greater – but do you really want to live there?

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Transparency doesn`t come easily to the medical community – that`s OK – lawyers have the same problem.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 3, 2012  A Burlington resident commented on our first story about the government requirement that senior hospital staff make their pay scale and expense spending public and said: “Here’s another reason why that secrecy is stupid: Taxpayers already know roughly how much Eric Vandewall is paid.  According to other media sources Vandewall was paid $334,990.65 in 2010 and given a car allowance of “around” $1,100 a month.

“This stonewalling is nonsensical and seems inconsistent with the spirit of we’re-all-in-this-together community you think Jo Brant would be using in their fundraising drive”


Hospital spokespeople said earlier in December that they would not post the pay scales until January 3rd because they were not required to do so – which raised a bit of dust and the question: why not?

Joseph Brant Memorial Hosapital CEO Eric Vandewall poses with Prime Minister Stephen Harper - the PM didn't have a cheque for the CEO. Vandewall wants to get his picture taken with the Premier of the province - that's where the funds have got to come from.

If the figure reported is correct Vandewall is one of the best paid civil servants in Burlington.  Well someone has to be at the top of the list and if the money that person gets is from the public trough – it gets declared. The presidents of large publicly traded companies have their salaries and benefits published in annual reports.  The only time you don’t have to tell the world what you’ve earned is when it is a private company that you own.  Then the only person you have to tell is the tax man.

What is frustrating is the tendency some civil servants have to duck the very valid question: How much public money are we giving you?  Then the public can decide if the person is worth what they are being paid.

Andrea Horwath, NDP leader and MPP for Hamilton Centre makes the point that “leadership on cost-cutting has to start at the top. You can’t expect a nurse to take a pay freeze while the CEOs are raking in not only high salaries and bonuses but also perks … These perks are all part of the equation, when we look at trying to get control over costs in the hospital sector” says Horwath.

Horwath has long been fighting to rein in hospital CEOs salaries and in the process scores political points and keep her blue colour base happy.

Smith makes nearly $725,000 a year and Martin is just over $700,000. Higgins makes nearly $490,000 and Vandewall gets just over $350,000 in salary and taxable benefits.

At St. Joseph’s Healthcare, CEO Kevin Smith gets $1,000 a month and drives a Mercedes ML Diesel SUV. Smith is paid nearly $725,000 a year.  Heck based on that – Vandewall (who gets just over $350,000) should be looking for an increase.  Because for the next five years – maybe ten, he is going to be battling the bureaucrats at Queen`s Park to get the funding to rebuild the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, when the province doesn`t have any money and at the same time deal with city hall to coax out of them some of the cash they already have in the bank.

Vandewall has to clear the property parking lot so that the expansion can take place and to do that he has to build a parking lot.  The city of Burlington doesn`t want to put their money into a parking lot for a couple of reasons: there is nothing sexy about a parking lot and the city isn`t all that sure the province will really, really come through.  The Mayors Letter to the Editor in the Post notwithstanding.  To hand over $20 million to the hospital now and see a parking lot go up – and not get the revenue from that parking – is proving to be a tough one for the city to swallow.  The definitive agreement between the city and the hospital is still going back and forth.  But somehow Vandewall has to convince the city to let the money flow his way.

Vandewall has to attend every Gala that is put on to raise money for the hospital - but he doesn't have to pay for the tickets.

Then he has to glad hand for the next five years to get the people with deep pockets to come up with the $60 million the Hospital Foundation has to raise.  Were I Eric Vandewall, I would be renting billboards and telling the city how much I am being paid and then ask for a raise.  He has one of the toughest jobs in the city and quite frankly I don`t care what kind of a car he drives.  That is none of my business.  How much we give him to pay for the car – that is public information.

When on compares what Vandewall is earning with what his colleagues a few miles away are earning and you measure that against what the guy does – he is worth every dollar we are giving him.  This guy oversees the building of hospitals – and that is no simple task.

Before coming to Burlington, Vandewall was the senior vice-president of Trillium Health Centre, where he over saw the building of the Trillium Health Centre’s West Toronto 18,510-square-foot addition and 23,575-square-foot renovation.

Construction setbacks – including a labour strike, record summer rainfall and construction challenges – put the project behind schedule. Still, Ellis Don, the general contractor, was able to make up the time to bring it in on time and within budget, which included being just under the five per cent contingency allowance.

While Vandewall didn’t do all this by himself he certainly directed the team and made all the parts come together.  This guy knows how to get a hospital built – now if he can learn how to work a little more effectively with the city and soothe the nerves of the politicians who will take it in the neck if they end up paying for a parking lot garage and then have to  wait more than ten years for their hospital.

One thing that did surprise me about the pay packages was that the cost of subscriptions to the numerous galas these people have to attend is covered in their remuneration package.  What we are doing is using tax dollars to pay these administrators – some of whom are brilliant – and then giving them a perk that they use to buy a ticket to a fund raising event to build the hospital.  Is that what they mean by paying Peter to rob Paul?   I thought these people paid for their tickets out of their own personal funds.  Maybe I am naïve.



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The twisted tale about the size of the pay cheque and the paying for a parking lot garage.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 28, 2011  –  In the world of politics it is called getting ahead of the parade.  When there is some news you know is going to create some controversy,  you get out in front of it and do your best to control it, put it in context and frame it with as much positive data as you can.  Smart people do that –they work at creating the agenda rather than being the agenda.

Come Tuesday of next week, Eric Vandewall and others at the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) will be the agenda when what they are paid each year is made public.  The province decided some time ago that what hospital administrators are paid is public information and can be learned through a simple access to information request.

Several local media then gave the JBMH a call a few days before Christmas and asked – “well just how much are you paying the lad?” and were told that the media would have to wait until January 3rd, which is what the rules call for.  All the hospitals in the Burlington-Hamilton area got together and agreed that they would all release the numbers at the same time.  In the commercial world that’s called collusion and if they were selling something we would call it price fixing, but I digress.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital CEO Eric Vandewall is about to tell us what he gets paid annually. He didn't volunteer this information.

Hospital administrators are paid with tax dollars and Ontario has for some time made the salaries of those paid by the taxpayers public information.  It has been called the Sunshine list and is released each year.

The public relations people at JBMH had an excellent opportunity to be seen as complying openly and willingly with the new rule – but instead of doing that they decided to drag their feet and leave the impression that they really don’t want you to know – and come Monday they will be the news story of the day unless there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world.

I have always wondered why intelligent, highly paid people do such stupid things.  It’s kind of scary when you think about it.  They don’t seem to be able to think much beyond the end of their noses or they are far too focused on their own self-interests – either way – scary.

These are the people we pay very well to make good decisions on our behalf and when they behave like this – stalling for what amount to less than two weeks one wonders – why?

A positive news story would state what Vandewall is paid and then put it in context with say what the city manager is paid ($214,000+ for the last one) and what the President of McMaster University is paid and then look for what some of the publicly traded companies are paying their CEO’s.  Help the public see and appreciate the value we taxpayers are getting for the dollars that go into their pockets.

The medical community has always had a rather high level of arrogance about it.  One had to just watch Vandewall when he last appeared before city council.  He wanted money the city had set aside as its share for the re-build of the hospital and the sooner the better was the message he was sending.  Vandewall told council that the hospital Foundation would match what the city was putting up, $60 million of your dollars over a six year period.  Add the city’s $60 million to what the hospital Foundation was committed to raising and you have a handy $120 million.

Hospital Foundation Board - needs to raise $60 million. So far has only managed to get their picture taken. Nice picture though.

Problem is the Foundation has yet to raise a dime, at least they haven’t reported any funds being raised but they did have a nice picture taken of themselves.  In due course the Foundation will raise its share but right now the hospital needs to lay its hands on some cash so the early prep work for the eventual re-build of the hospital can get done.

One of the first layers of that work is the building of a parking garage.  Why a parking garage first?  The hospital has to clear some land that will be used to add the new extensions to the hospital and they need a place to put the cars currently parked on the hospital lot.  So, they thought, why not get the city of Burlington to pass along some of the money needed to build the garage.

Parking space - someone has to come up with the money to pay for a parking garage so that these cars have a place to go. Burlington city council isn't very keen on city money being used to pay for a hospital parking lot.

Not so fast, say the folks at city hall. Before as much as a dime of city money goes to the hospital,  the Memorandum of Understanding (or whatever they are going to call the document that sets out who gets what and who does what) has to be signed.  That document has been in the negotiation/development stage for more than four months now.  Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor is keeping a very close eye on this one – he’s not about to see a big chunk of the city’s money get used to pay for a hospital parking garage. Taylor was heard to mutter something about maybe having the parking lot revenue go to the city.

All the Senior people at City Hall get their names published in the Annual Sunshine list (Its officially known as the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act),  if they earn more than $100,000.  The list comes out early in August – we’ll see that you get a copy.  Eric Vandewall earns well in excess of $100,000; he may well be the best paid civil servant in the city, an accolade he isn’t going to want to wear on his lapel.

Hospital CEO Eric Vandewall stalling for time while waiting for a provincial government Minister to show up to announce that the hospital re-build would be funded. The Minister never arrived. This isn't the last time the provincial government is going to let the CEO down.

Good talent has to be paid the going rate and there are not a lot of exceptional hospital administrators in the province.  Vandewall was brought in to clean up a real mess and it would appear that he is doing a very good job at what he is being paid a very good salary to do.  The public needs to appreciate that his job is to get the new hospital Burlington has wanted for some time built – and the faster the better.

Part of the problem is that the kind of hospital Vandewall is beavering away to get built down on Lakeshore Road may not be the kind of hospital Burlington needs for its aging population.  There is reason to believe that Burlington might be much better served with a community type hospital and have Hamilton and Oakville handle the type of medical situations that calls for the high tech/emergency level care.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the needs of our aging population are probably not best met with the type of hospital JBMH is slated to be rebuilt into.  What is best for the city is not yet clear but no one seems to want to ask the question: What kind of hospital is going to meet the needs of our changing demographic and at the same time meet the needs of the current growing population.  But there isn’t a politician in this city who is going to stand up and ask that question publicly.  It would be really interesting to hear what people within the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care think is best for Burlington long term.

He has to do this job and get it done while working with a government that seldom tells him the truth and happens to be broke and isn’t likely to come through with the money needed to do the rebuild.  Eric Vandewall has a very tough five years in front of him.  He isn’t going to be able to do what he was hired to do – through no fault of his own.

So he looks at the pile of cash Burlington is sitting on and looks for ways to get it out of the city’s bank account and into the hospital’s.   Good luck Mr. Vandewall.  There happens to be a wily old coot sitting at that Council table and he isn’t at all keen on seeing city money used to pay for the building of a parking garage.  Part of the garage ? – probably.

When they all learn what you’re being paid – they are going to make you work very hard for every dollar of it.


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Line these ducks up and see if you see what I see. This could be painful.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 16, 2011 –  The good folks at Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital tells us that the province is in for the money needed to do a major upgrade to the place – which is badly needed.  The hospital board reports that they have a memo from the provincial government – AND that the hospital’s name is on an infrastructure list of communities that are going to get funding.

With good news apparently on the way the hospital goes out and rents a nice big white tent and everyone who is anybody in town shows up for THE announcement.

But the Minister, doesn’t show up.  We are told her car got stuck in traffic.  A substitute Minister is on hand to give, what is at best an embarrassing situation, the spin it needs.  Ted McMeekin talks about the great care he got at the hospital when he needed help.  Fair enough.

Burlington's best wait on a sunny afternoon for a provincial government Minister to arrive with a "good news" announcement - She fails to show - an ominous sign for the city.

The Minister that didn’t make it to the meeting lost her seat in the election and the guy that told us about the great care he got makes it back into Cabinet.  Such are the vagaries of provincial politics.

That the province was in the middle of a provincial election and the Liberals thinking they just might be able to win Burlington this time out, throw everything they have into the Burlington campaign.  Almost daily press conferences, photo ops, a visit to the city by the Premier – all for not.  The solid Liberal candidate got beaten soundly by the Progressive Conservative candidate who had no political experience nor was she active in the community before she was elected. The riding hasn’t gone Liberal since the early 40’s.

Then Liberal candidate and former hospital board member Karmel Sakran chats with Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital CEO Eric Vandewall the day a provincial government Minister failed to show up for a "good news" announcement.

The Liberal candidate, who was at one point the vice chair of the hospital board swears that this is going to happen – the hospital is going to be funded.  The only thing we didn’t hear was someone swearing on a stack of bibles that it would happen.

City Council has been told they will have to come up with a significant chunk of the millions it is going to cost to refurbish the hospital and they put in motion the steps needed to impose a tax levy.  The city manages to put $20 million plus into a reserve fund.

Hospital Foundation Board gets picture taken as they gear up to raise $60 million from within the community.

The hospital is grateful and tells the city they are going to match – dollar for dollar – what the city contributes.  Combined the community is committed to come up with $120 million.  It must be noted however that while the city has $20 million plus in a reserve fund collecting interest the hospital,s foundation hasn’t announced a dime of fund raising.  They did release a nice picture of themselves though.

Then the hospital asks if the city might send along some of those dollars to build a parking garage that is needed.  A PARKING GARAGE the citizens ask – we wanted a hospital.

Hospital spin doctors explain that a parking garage has to be built so that there is a place for the cars to be put so that the land the cars are now parking on can be dug up and used for the magnificent expansion that is going to come.  We know the hospital is going to be refurbished because the province promised us that.  Yeah right.   Oh, and there is a pretty picture to show what the new building will look like.  It gets better.

If it ever gets built - this is what the architects expect it to look like. Don't think there will be any big bets placed on this happening by the announced date.

The city and the hospital start talking about an agreement as to when and how and under what circumstances the money Burlington city has raised will be passed along to the hospital.  This is one of those occasions when the city’s legal department is being closed mouth and rightly so.

There are many, including Councillor Paul Sharman who feel the city could get “screwed” by the province and he doesn’t for a second trust them.  He wants an agreement with the province “in our back pocket” – then money can flow.  Sharman points out that the province has both a budget shortfall and some very significant debt that is going to have to be paid down and he doesn’t believe the province is going to have any money for an upgrade to the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward believes the province will come through with the money.  Meed Ward sat on the hospital board as a citizen before she was elected to council and has in the past worked as a communications advisor to the hospital during the very tough Cdifficile days when more than 80 people lost their lives.

The day after Sharman said he wanted to see an agreement between the city and the province in place before he would go along with the money the city now has in the bank going to the hospital – guess what? The financial press reports that an influential credit rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service had turned “negative” on the province.  They warned that they might have to lower the province’s credit rating if it “doesn’t take serious steps in the next budget to deal with the multi-million dollar deficit.”  Hey isn’t that the budget that has the money for our hospital refurbishment in it?

The province has a $16 billion deficit and an economy that is on the sluggish side which means it is going to take longer than expected to reduce that deficit.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital is a little like the provinces economy: a little the worse for wear and tear and in need of a fix up. Problem is the economy has to get much better before the hospital refurbishment can go forward,

The problems with the American economy are holding Ontario’s economy back and the problems in Europe, which almost defy understanding, aren’t helping either.  With a credit rating change apparently in the works – unless the budget shows some serious intention at restraint – it will be more expensive to borrow.  And, if the financial press is to be believed, foolish to do so as well.

So now that the ducks are all lined up – what do you think is going to happen?  Grab your ankles and hold on tight.  This is going to hurt.

All however is not lost.  There is an opportunity for this city to do something really different; something that meets the real needs of the city and not the desires of the medical community.  Mayor Rick Goldring recently invited a highly regarded expert on public health policy, Andre Picard,  who suggested that smaller community hospitals were the best tool to meet the medical needs of the aging population Burlington has to deal with.

For some reason – both your city council and the people who run the medical services in this city want a big expensive hospital that the province can’t afford.  We seem to be stuck on a building we perhaps don’t need.  Hamilton has all the medical capacity we need and Oakville is getting a really large medical complex.  I’ll take the ambulance ride to Hamilton or Oakville if you don’t mind.


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Health policy analyst cool on the idea of a JBMH upgrade; advocates for community based health delivery instead.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 26, 2011  –  Burlington`s Strategic plan calls for the city to set aside $10 million a year for the next six years to pay for a part of the upgrading of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital which the province has promised would take place in 2013.  The Mayor`s Inspire series speaker last week seemed to suggest that an upgraded hospital was not what Burlington needed.

Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard, an eminent policy analyst in the health field and the recipient of numerous awards including the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, the Canadian Policy Research Award, the Atkinson fellowship for public policy research and the Centennial Prize of the Pan American Organization. He was named Canada’s first Public Health Hero by the Canadian Public Health Association and was honoured as a champion of mental health. He is a four-time finalist for the National Newspaper Awards.  In other words he is thought of as someone who knows what he is talking about.  So when he suggests that upgrading of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was not necessarily the best thing to do with the limited resources available we might want to sit up and listen.

Andre Picard, a noted authority on heath services policy and lead columnist for the Globe & Mail was just a little cool to the idea of a new hospital for Burlington at the Mayor's Inspire series last week.

Picard outlined the need for community delivered health services which led to Our Burlington asking Mr. Picard this question:  If you are calling for a community based system to deliver health service because that is more cost effective delivery and better health – then does Burlington need a major upgrade to the Joseph Brant Memorial hospital ?

Picard equivocated a bit with his answer when he said it would depend on there being hospitals close at hand that could deliver the kind of service that only a hospital can provide and then added that he thought an upgraded hospital in Burlington was probably a good thing, more or less.  More or less?  That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement was it?

Using his criteria – one could argue (and the provincial government might well do that)  that there are excellent hospitals in Hamilton and Oakville which are a very short ambulance drive away.  You can get to a Hamilton  hospital from Lowville faster than you can get to JBMH.

Does Burlington then need an upgrade to its hospital?  Asking that question in this city and you have really put the fat in the fire.  All three candidates in the recent provincial election swore on their Mother’s graves that they would fight mightily to have the province give a firm commitment – with a date attached to it – guaranteeing that our hospital would get the upgrade it needs and which we were promised.

And now we hear from one of the best thinkers in the country suggesting that a new hospital in Burlington might not be what’s best for the community.  Isn’t that ducky?

We know the province doesn’t have any money, and we know that our economy is getting more wobbly every week.  But no one at the provincial level is suggesting that Burlington might want to look at a different model to meet the needs of its aging population.

The city did, what it thought was best, and what the province required them to do, and that was put up $10 million a year for six years to pay for a portion of the cost of the upgrade, we have been told was totally necessary.

The city and the hospital are still working out how the $60 million the city is going to put into the kitty will be spent.  At this point it looks like the city’s money will be used to pay for the building of a parking lot, because the space now being used to park cars is needed for the expansion that is planned.  The city hasn’t written the cheque yet – maybe they want to put a hold on it and ask the hospital to sit with them and take another look at the plans.

Andre Picard, speaker at the Mayor's Inspire series has given Mayor Goldring much to think about, when he came out as less than enthusiastic about the planned JBMH upgrade.

That will take a level of political courage that is seldom seen.

The long term outlook for a new hospital in Burlington just might need a real hard look before we do something really dumb.  Added to Picard’s  Wednesday evening comments, were remarks made in the provincial Legislature on Thursday, where an NDP member read out the list of hospital upgrades the province is talking about – more than 20 of them.  In the economy we are in it just can`t happen.  And someone needs to begin to be much more honest with the people who live here, pay the taxes and expect the public health services they need

Every candidate in the last provincial election said they would ensure that we got the hospital upgrade – what wasn’t asked was – do we need a hospital upgrade?  Every candidate said, what they thought you wanted to hear.  Not one of them had done their homework.  One of them, Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran, used to sit on the hospital board and was as close to the center of political power as one can get – and he never suggested, that perhaps the hospital model we are working within is the wrong model.

All the candidates just mouthed, what they thought the voters wanted to hear.  Should the province decide that Burlington is not the place for a large expensive hospital, and that we should have a number of community care centres spread throughout the city – – just wait for the political howling.

JBMH president Eric Vandewall might want to have lunch with Inspire speaker and noted authority on public health service delivery and talk about the best form of public insitution to meet the needs of the community. Mayor Goldring might want to sit in on that lunch - even pick up the tab if some sensible thinking comes out of the meal.

Picard`s comments suggest that Burlington might not have made the smartest move.  Is the city – that means both the citizens, its city council and the senior hospital staff plus the Board of Directors – courageous enough to ask the hard questions  like, is this really the best thing for the city and its citizens?

One would hope that the Mayor would take the opportunity to have dinner with Picard and ask some hard-nosed questions.  Maybe even ask for some advice as well on how we determine what is best for the city.  In the meantime, don’t write the cheque that would deliver the $20 million plus  sitting in the bank.

Let’s be absolutely sure we are doing what is best for the community and not just what’s best for the medical community who would love to have a shiny new building.


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