During a formal announcement on expanding hospital capacity in Brampton, Premier Doug Ford took a noticeably partisan tone as he pushed for residents to vote out the city’s NDP MPPs.
“I have great, great, two great Brampton MPPs, but I’m going to be bold here: We need more voices down at Brampton,” he said during an announcement Friday afternoon.
“There’s five seats, provincial ridings, we need to get those other three seats to continue having a strong voice down at Queen’s Park. So in the next election, please vote for the PC government in the three other ridings and I promise you we won’t let you down as we haven’t let you down here.”
Ford, who along with Health Minister Christine Elliott and Brampton Progressive Conservative MPPs Prabmeet Sarkaria and Amarjot Sandhu, announced the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness will eventually be converted into a full-service, inpatient hospital.
The announcement, which was teased in the 2021 Ontario budget released on Wednesday, unveiled a $1.5-million planning grant for William Osler Health System to do the design work needed to switch the Peel Memorial Centre, which opened in 2017 as a facility for outpatient services, day surgeries and urgent care centre, into an inpatient hospital.
Officials said the move is part of a $30-billion, 10-year expansion and renovation plan for Ontario’s hospitals.
The government promised there would be 250 net, new hospital beds for Brampton and that construction is expected to begin in 2023. However, an end date for the project wasn’t revealed and it’s not clear if funds were fully set aside to carry on with the project. Global News contacted the Ontario government and William Osler Health System to ask for more information, but a response wasn’t received as of Friday evening.
They also announced $18 million will be sent over the next year to expand the Peel Memorial Centre’s urgent care space, which has limited hours, into a 24-7 facility. Urgent care centres deal with less severe ailments, but are staffed with emergency-trained physicians.
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 facility for the city’s approximately 650,000 residents. It has long been plagued with issues of overcrowding and excessive wait times. In 2020, Brampton city council voted to declare a health-care emergency in the community.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown called Friday’s announcement an “absolute homerun.” He said the provincial average for hospital beds is 2.16 for every 1,000 people, but in Brampton it’s currently 0.96. Brown said converting Peel Memorial Centre will go a long way to bridging the gap.
“Brampton’s health care system has been overcrowded and underfunded for far too long and the hallway medicine crisis has been compounded by the pandemic,” he said.
In Wednesday’s budget, there was a commitment to deal with 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.
During his news conference Friday afternoon, Ford was asked a question that accused the opposition parties of spreading misinformation about the announcement. The questioner referenced messaging about a second wing, something written in the budget text.
“They’re politicians. They’re out there sending misinformation. I don’t want to call them liars, they’re just untruthful that’s all, but we saw that for 15 years,” Ford said in response.
“I’m not worrying about those guys. I don’t give two hoots about them. We’re focused on the task at hand. We’re building a new hospital.”
Ford had similar messaging when asked about the opposition’s claims there aren’t any hard budgetary figures for the project.
“My response to that is (to) just ignore them because they don’t know what’s going on, really I’m just being frank. They had 15 years to do something and they gave the people of Brampton a clinic that is open until 8:30 or 9 o’clock. Well a message to them: Health care continues 24-7, not a little clinic that you give people,” he said, praising the advocacy of PC MPPs in attendance as well as Brown and William Osler Health System CEO Dr. Naveed Mohammad.
“So I just ignore the squawking in the background and we’re going to focus and move forward on it and we’re going to do something they haven’t been able to accomplish in 15 years, so well can’t wait to see them at the groundbreaking, well maybe they might not be there so we’ll never know.”
When asked by Global News about Ford’s comments and push during the announcement for more PC MPPs to be elected, Brampton East NDP MPP Gurratan Singh called it an “election-style” news conference in the run-up to the 2022 Ontario election.
“The Conservative government and Premier Doug Ford have a full mandate to fix health care if they chose to,” he said.
“This government has had a lot of opportunity earlier to invest in Brampton’s health care and chose not to.”
Singh said health care is “the number one issue” facing Brampton right now.
“People are genuinely very anxious about the condition of health in our city,” he said.
Global News also contacted Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca to ask about Ford’s comments about the party’s record while previously in government.
In a statement, Del Duca didn’t directly respond to the question. He said the party is “committed to improving health care in Brampton” and in Ontario.
“If Doug Ford bothered to read his own budget, he would clearly see what the rest of Ontario already has already figured out: Under his plan, Brampton is not getting a new hospital,” Del Duca wrote.
“No matter how much hot air he spews, that won’t change under this government.”
Representatives for the NDP and Liberal Party told Global News after the budget was released that their parties would move to build an additional hospital in Brampton.
Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner echoed the opposition calls for quicker action to address hospital capacity in Brampton. Like Singh, he too called out the past Liberal and current PC governments.