Hospital and city negotiating team do kissy, kissy and figure out just how to get city money to pay for hospital equipment.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 20, 2012    The negotiating teams for the City of Burlington and Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital have agreed in principle to a contribution agreement that will spell out just what the $60 million the city will be funneling over to the hospital is going to be spent on.

The plan, as explained to council committees is for the city to pay for equipment that will be used in the hospital rather than have city money used to pay for a parking garage, which was the original thinking on the hospital side of the table.

The city will be advised of the purchases and have funds in a reserve account to pay the bills.

The demolition of an old government building was the first step on the road that will see a significantly different hospital for Burlington sometime in 2015. Hospital expects to have shovels in the ground before the end of the year - all they have to do is get site approval from the city.

Mayor Goldring has explained that the city is going to have to borrow to meet this obligation.  The $60 million represents close to half of a one year residential tax levy for the city.  It is the biggest financial undertaking the city has ever done.

This one has been a long time getting from conception to birth but it is apparently ready for council committee and then full council on July 16th at which time we will officially be $60 million poorer.

The city has just over $8 million salted away and, if the agreement says what we’ve been told, the balance will get paid out over a period of time with the actual flow of funds beginning sometime in 2014 – and then stretched out over a period of time.

The city will work with the hospital to determine when they need funds to pay for equipment purchased is needed.  Maybe we should just give them a city corporate credit card and have the hospital put the cost on our plastic and the city can collect Air Miles.

Cathy Robertson is the "voice" of the city's negotiating team with the hospital.

Cathy Robertson, Director of Roads and Parks Maintenance, is a member of the negotiating committee and has become the voice for the city on the details of the agreement.

In December 2009, City Council approved up to $60 million as a municipal contribution for the proposed hospital redevelopment plan. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has also committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign.

In August 2011, the province confirmed that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment project was approved. The project, with a budget of more $300 million, will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital. In April 2012, the city approved a go-forward plan for funding and negotiations that took place in May and June 2012.

“City staff recognize what a large contribution this is to the hospital and how important that contribution is to the people of Burlington,” said Scott Stewart, General Manager of Community Services. “We have worked with hospital administration to make sure we achieve the best method possible of providing the needed funding for Joseph Brant while managing the city’s money effectively. We look forward to confirming that agreement.”

Schematic of what will go where on the hospityal property. The parking garage is on the far left.

Negotiations got a little contentious at one stage.  When the hospital realized that paying for the parking garage was just not on the city they came up with the idea of having the city pay for furnishings and equipment.  You have no idea what a modern hospital bed costs.

The city collected $1.2 million in 2010, $1.2 million in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2012 through a special tax levy. City Council earmarked $3.6 million from previous years’ surpluses, and now has $8.4 million committed in a reserve fund earning interest. The 2012 tax levy came to $7.49 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

“I believe we are in good shape with this proposed agreement,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “I think it will strike a balance between the need for City Council to be careful with how we spend taxpayers’ money and the importance of managing Burlington’s health care needs for today and for future generations.”

Golding delivered the keynote address at the hospitals AGM recently and attempted to lay the groundwork for a different relationship with the hospital.  Stephen Friday was elected the new chairman of the hospital board.  He and the Mayor have worked together in the past and hopefully the hospital Board will be able to work with the city in a more beneficial way for everyone.

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.

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