By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
A $7.3-million investment in the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s (CKHA) Wallaceburg site is further reassurance for the community that the hospital is here to stay.
On Friday, CKHA reaffirmed, with the local MPP Monte McNaughton and Walpole Island Chief Charles Sampson, a new power plant that will replace aging equipment with new boilers, generators and electrical distribution equipment.
“This is an investment in not only the care and delivery of service here today. It’s an investment in the future because it does provide a backbone for a further redevelopment of this site in the future,” Lori Marshall, CEO and president of CKHA said.
The province first announced the funding back in 2018.
The hospital services Wallaceburg, Walpole Island and surrounding Lambton municipalities.
“When we look at projects, we always ask, ‘Who will it help and how does it help them?’ In this case, I know this funding is not just for us here today but for generations of families to come,” said Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton, who made the grant announcement.
The new power plant will support a 24-hour emergency department, five inpatient beds, ambulatory care including specialty clinics, diagnostic imaging including radiology and ultrasound, respiratory therapy, physiotherapy and laboratory services.
The Replacement Power Plant Project will be completed in 2021. Marshall said the government’s share plus 10 per cent from CKHA’s reserve funds will cover the costs, and no additional community fundraising is needed.
“In that time period, we will continue to work with the government on further next steps for the Wallaceburg site,” she said, adding that a sustainable plan for redevelopment has been set in motion.
The next project CKHA has submitted to the government, which is sitting with the Ministry of Health and under review, is a redevelopment of the emergency department, diagnostic imaging area and the lab area. The current east side, where those services are housed, will be demolished. Services will be moved to a newly built area. Further development of increased ambulatory care services will follow.
Marshall said the new plant is a sign Wallaceburg’s hospital is not going anywhere.
“If we were just looking at sustaining the current building, we would not need the level of infrastructure going into this power plant. We could have just replaced a boiler for those kinds of things. What this power plant actually does is give us the level infrastructure to truly support new builds, new code requirements and all those kinds of things.”
Wallaceburg municipal councillors Aaron Hall and Carmen McGregor said this was a win for the community that “had to fight to ensure the doors stayed open.”
“We’ve had our struggles in Wallaceburg between the global downturn in our plants and the change in the automotive industry. So to lose the hospital would have been total devastation. So to see this happen and the results of the community fighting is just, is just great.” McGregor said.