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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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