By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Monte McNaughton made Wallaceburg his first stop following the release of the 2022 provincial budget April 28.
The next morning, the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP swung into the southern part of his riding to guarantee Ministry of Health funding for the continued renewal of Wallaceburg’s hospital.
“It wasn’t that long ago that this hospital was in jeopardy,” McNaughton as he spoke to the crowd gathered at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Wallaceburg site.
“But standing shoulder to shoulder with many of you, we fought back,” he said.
The financial commitment is part of $40 billion the province has pledged to fund 50 hospital projects across Ontario, with a goal of adding 3,000 beds over the next decade.
That funding will be secured, McNaughton said, if the Progressive Conservatives are returned to power.
There’s no official timeline for breaking ground, but McNaughton said work would begin in the second term if the PCs are re-elected.
“Our goal is to get it done as quickly as possible,” McNaughton told reporters. “Of course you know we’re putting the budget to voters June 2 and if we’re successful June 2, we’ll get to work as quickly as possible and work in the second term to getting this done.”
After narrowly escaping closure, Wallaceburg’s hospital came back from the brink due to the community’s determination.
The Save Our Sydenham group fought tooth and nail to keep the hospital in Wallaceburg, and as a backbencher MPP, McNaughton lent his support to keep the hospital open throughout the years.
McNaughton thanked CKHA President and CEO Lori Marshall and her team, along with other community members for their “unwavering support” for Wallaceburg’s hospital.
When completed, the CKHA Wallaceburg site will house a new state-of-the-art hospital offering a wide range of services. Its expanded capacity will include a new emergency room area that will run 24-7, inpatient beds, diagnostic imaging including radiology and ultrasound, physiotherapy, laboratory services and other clinics such as urology.
Marshall said the changes at Wallaceburg are not only about new facilities – the new design dovetails with the changes in the way health care is delivered.
“It’s also going to give us the opportunity to expand our services in outpatient and ambulatory care which is where the new growth is going to be in the future,” Marshall said.
According to Marshall, the next step involves striking a building committee to work with planners and architects.
It will be comprised of hospital staff, board members with the CKHA and the CKHA Foundation board as well as members of the community and Walpole Island First Nation to oversee the design submission.
A draft plan for the second phase will be submitted to Ministry of Health for approval in September, Marshall said.
The original tab for the project was an estimated $25-million, Marshall said, however that number was based on pre-pandemic labour and material costs which have mushroomed over the past two years.
Work on a new $7.3-million energy plant to support the backbone for the second phase of the development is nearly complete.