OPINION: Commitment reaffirmed

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If there was ever one final sign of the Wallaceburg hospital staying put, it took place last Friday.

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton announced a provincial government commitment to fund the second phase of improvements at the Wallaceburg hospital, which will cost an estimated $25 million.

The project combines a new build with the repurposing of some of the existing structure

Not that such a sign was necessarily needed. The first phase, building a new power plant for the hospital, took about $7.3 million, and was recently completed.

Getting to this stage of two hospitals, one board realization was not easy. Not after the rubble that was left behind by the previous hospital administration in terms two-hospital health care for Chatham-Kent, and the kindergarten tantrums and squabbles of the dysfunctional tri-board of the CKHA.

It was a shambles, as was spending. The CKHA’s top brass seemed to burn through budgets like drunken sailors, annually expecting the province to come along and bail them out.

Operations and in-fighting reached the point where in 2016, the province stepped in, with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care appointing Bonnie Adamson to investigate the overall dysfunction between the hospital boards as well as the day-to-day operations at the facilities. She found a slew of issues.

As a result Rob Devitt was appointed in late summer of 2016 and started cleaning house. Top administrators were let go and the reorganization began.

Today, the current administration is committed to operating two hospitals, Chatham and Wallaceburg, with two 24/7 emergency departments. The previous administration had looked to eliminate Wallaceburg’s emergency department.

Even after Marshall was appointed, distrust lingered. The pledge of a two-hospital commitment rang hollow for many – until promise after promise was delivered.

Finally, people came to the realization of the reality that administration, and the province, believed in maintaining two hospitals.

And on Friday, with McNaughton on hand to commit the province to the rebuild of Wallaceburg’s hospital, that last doubters should be able to rest easy.

Where an emergency department was once slated for closure, a new one will be built.

Oh, how times have changed.

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