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by Isabel Mosseler
A January 22 announcement by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care revealed the West Nipissing General Hospital will get a significant portion of a $175 million investment for “urgent hospital upgrades, repairs and maintenance” shared between 128 hospitals across the province. In fact, the local hospital will be getting significantly more than any other in the district, including the North Bay Health Centre.
West Nipissing General Hospital is getting $2,835,994, while the North Bay Regional Health Centre received $517,953, and Mattawa General was not on the list at all. Deputy Premier Christine Elliot, who is also the Minister of Health and Long Term Care, indicated that the “funding will help to ensure hospitals across Ontario are able to make the needed upgrades, improvements and maintenance so patients and families have access to the reliable, quality care they expect and deserve.” WN General Hospital CEO Cynthia Desormiers welcomed the announcement and commented that the age of the local hospital was the likely reason for the substantial funding.
“The WNGH, like other hospitals in Ontario, is responsible to ensure our facility is in a good state of repair through capital asset and planning renewals. Annually the WNGH applies for HIRF (Hospital Infrastructure Renewal Funding),” explains Desormiers. She adds that about 10 years ago, the hospital participated in the Facility Condition Assessment program (FCAP) which saw the building assessed by a team of engineers. That assessment identified the improvements required to keep the 40-year-old hospital in good condition. Ontario hospitals submit their requests for funding to their respective LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and it’s the LHIN that uses the facility assessment to make their recommendations to the Ministry. So while it may seem a windfall, the funding is part of a long-term plan that has seen the local hospital receive substantial investment over several years. In comparison, the North Bay hospital is fairly new, and aging infrastructure necessarily requires more upgrades.
“Over the past 10 years, through a board-approved 10-year Capital Plan, we have begun replacing and renewing many items which were installed in 1977 during the construction of our hospital. Our Capital Plan, which is about $1M per year, has to pay for many types of upgrades, replacements and equipment. Unfortunately, the Capital Plan cannot always fund all the needs of the hospital. In 2016-2017, we applied for some exceptional funding in addition to our regular HIRF application in order to replace our aged roof. We were successfully awarded this funding. In 2017-2018, we applied for and were awarded both HIRF and exceptional funding to help pay for the first phase of replacing our 40-year-old heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.”