The Ontario government is set to announce further details about an expansion of inpatient hospital capacity in Brampton, but a day after the release of the provincial budget, questions remain as to what form of relief is on the way.
During Wednesday’s announcement, the 211-page document contained a commitment to address health care issues in Peel Region.
“These investments will support historic hospital expansion and construction projects, including a new inpatient wing at Peel Memorial (Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness) in Brampton,” the announcement said in part, also noting planning will get underway for expanding facilities in Mississauga.
The wording was repeated in Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s speech to the legislature on Wednesday while delivering the budget.
Outside of the Peel Memorial Centre Thursday afternoon, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the community has been struggling for years with lengthy wait times and overcrowding.
“What the NDP would have done in this budget were we government … we are going to build a brand new hospital for Brampton and of course we are going to take Brampton Civic (Hospital) seriously because we know it is overrun as well with need,” she said, adding the new hospital is on top of what is being proposed for Peel Memorial Centre.
“What we want to see are the dollars and we want to see the shovels in the ground.”
Peel Memorial Centre, which opened in 2017, currently offers outpatient services, day surgeries and an urgent care centre only. Brampton Civic Hospital, which opened in 2007, is home to one of Canada’s busiest emergency rooms and serves as the only main full-service hospital for the city’s approximately 650,000 residents.
Brampton East NDP MPP Gurratan Singh pushed the government for additional information during question period on Thursday.
“The premier’s budget has no money allocated for Peel Memorial, no timeline, and most shockingly no emergency room. The 2021 budget is a disgrace,” he said in the legislature.
Premier Doug Ford responded and said people don’t “have to worry anymore” after capacity issues went unaddressed for years.
“You’re going to have a 24-7 emergency room, you’re going to have a brand new hospital there,” he said.
As of Thursday, however, it appears the project might be somewhere in the middle of what the budget document stated and what the Ontario NDP pushed for.
Mayor Patrick Brown said phase two of William Osler Health System’s plan for health care in Brampton would see Peel Memorial Centre converted to a full-service, 24-7 inpatient hospital.
He went on to say the provincial government is moving to pursue this change and what’s stated in the budget document is not the case.
“It’s not a wing. It’s a full hospital,” Brown said.
“We’ve been campaigning, we’ve been lobbying for this second hospital, and I’m very happy today.”
He said the phase two proposal, which could accommodate around 300 patients, is a “step in the right direction.” However, he added it won’t get the city up to the provincial average in beds for the population.
“But it’s the first time in 15 years we’re making progress, so it’s encouraging,” Brown said.
Global News tried multiple times on Wednesday to get confirmations on what monies were set aside for the initiatives in Peel Region and what exactly will be built.
In a follow-up response from government staff Thursday morning, representatives reiterated health care in Brampton is a priority for the government and that Ford, along with Health Minister Christine Elliott, will have further information on Friday.
Jamie-Lee Bell, who was diagnosed with internal bleeding and had to stay in a hallway stretcher for nearly a week at Brampton Civic Hospital four years ago, told Global News the region needs help as soon as possible.
“We need two fully functioning, full-sized hospitals at the very least,” she said.
In January 2020, Brampton city council voted to declare a health-care emergency in the community.
A motion at the time directed City of Brampton staff to work with the William Osler Health System and the provincial and federal governments to secure “urgent frontline health-care funding” to Brampton Civic Hospital and the Peel Memorial Centre “to ensure (both facilities) are operating with full staffing and resources in order to provide safe and quality patient care immediately.”
The motion also directed staff to work with all of the parties to beef up emergency room services, inpatient services, as well as adding additional hospital beds to make sure the total hospital bed count is consistent with the provincial average per capita.
— With files from Mark Carcasole