Public Invited To Tour New Mega-Hospital Complex in St. Catharines/Niagara

A News Advisory and Commentary from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper

I don’t mind saying it. Few journalists in this region argued harder than I did, going back some eight or nine years ago now, against what I considered to be the bone-headed decision by the Niagara Health System – then led by CEO Debbie Sevenpifer – to build the only new mega-hospital this region of Niagara, Ontario was likely to receive approval for from the province for decades to come in west St. Catharines.

The new mega hospital complex for Niagara, located in possibly the dumbest location for it that could have been chosen, in west St. Catharines. Photo by Doug Draper

The new mega hospital complex for Niagara, located in possibly the dumbest location for it that could have been chosen for it, in the furthest reaches of west St. Catharines. Photo by Doug Draper

It was clear at the time, based on documentation I received from former NHS board members – that the Niagara Health System, an amalgamated hospital system for the region established by the former Conservative government of Mike Harris and Tim Hudak, would consolidate most of the acute care services in the region in this one new hospital.

That is why close to 100 brave doctors working at the NHS at the time took out full-page ads in local newspapers, recommending that the new hospital be located at a more central location in the region – possibly off Hwys. 406 and 20 around Thorold South and Pelham or off Hwy. 406 and East Main Street near the Welland Canal tunnel. They believed all of Niagara’s residents would have fairer access to its services that way.

 The only municipal council in the whole region that joined those doctors and that took seriously the leaked reports that all or most acute care services would be located in the new hospital, wherever it was built, was the council of Niagara Falls. Every single member of that council, except then mayor Ted Salci, voted in favour of going after the NHS to locate the hospital in a more central site in Niagara, and that council made it clear it would accept a location that was not in Niagara Falls.

 Unfortunately, no other municipality joined Niagara Falls in this campaign. And   the regional council, then under the chairmanship of St. Catharines councillor Peter Partington, embraced NHS’s decision to locate the hospital in west St. Catharines, in the provincial riding of Liberal government cabinet minister and St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, among other things. What was so frustrating there was that Niagara Region’s planning department, under the leadership of then-commissioner Corwin Cambray, had the guts to table a report before the regional council, giving it at least eight good reasons why the west St. Catharines location made no sense. But that report was ignored after then NHS CEO came before council and warned that if the council rejected the west St. Catharines site in favour of another one, the province might turn around and say something like; ‘To hell with it then. No new hospital for Niagara.’

 So Bradley, joined by then fellow cabinet minister Dave Caplan, who was the minister for infrastructural renewal at the time (a ministry that interestingly enough, was by then pushing for keeping major public institutions like hospitals in urban centres and not in fringe areas like west St. Catharines) and who went on to serve as health minister until he was forced to resign in disgrace, announced that west St. Catharines would be the site for the new NHS health complex, including first of a kind cancer and cardiac treatment centres for the region. Then St. Catharines mayor Tim Rigby celebrated with the words; ‘The eagle has landed.’

 It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the NHS tabled its infamous ‘Hospital Improvement Plan – from then on known to many as the HIP – spelling out what those brave doctors and others were trying to warn the public would happen years earlier – that most acute care services, including everything from emergency to maternity services, would be moved to the new west St. Catharines hospital site.

It took the release of the HIP for many thousands of people in south Niagara to flip and show out at meetings and rallies in large numbers. But by then, it was almost too late. The NHS and provincial government had already dug in its heals on the west St. Catharines site and the idea that the fake promise then NHS CEO Sevenpifer made, that existing community-based hospitals in Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland and Port Colborne would remain all or mostly fully functioning as acute care facilities was a fairy tale. Only a few groups like the Ontario Health Coalition, which I don’t recall playing any kind of a key role when NHS doctors and the Niagara Falls council were pushing for a central site for the new hospital, went on pandering to this fantasy that the aging hospitals in smaller communities across Niagara could be economically sustained as fully functioning acute care facilities.

 After a decade of writing about this and watching all of the bullshit going on in a number of camps, it gets tiring to hear much more complaining about the new hospital and all the services from other parts of the region it is going to suck in now. I can understand why the Niagara Falls council, just this January 9, protested once again over the inevitable move of maternity services from that city and Welland to the west St. Catharines site after it opens at the end of this March.

I’m not saying people in Niagara Falls and more southern communities in Niagara should not fight to keep acute care service or demand that one or more new hospitals be built in their areas, in locations where any acute or emergency services they need are more accessible than they will be in west St. Catharines.

 If people in south Niagara have the will to fight for new hospital facilities for that end of the region, they should start that fight now. We will likely be facing a provincial election this year and it isn’t too early to press the parties running in that election for a promise for accessible acute-care hospital services in south Niagara.

 In the meantime, we are all invited to tour the new hospital in west St. Catharines. Niagara At Large is posting the media advisory for the tours immediately below. Notice that the NHS refers to this new complex as ‘the St. Catharines site’. There is still little  or no  open admission that this mega complex, in this north-end location, is the super hospital for Niagara that all those doctors and others, some eight years ago, pressed the NHS to locate in a more central location in the region.

Public tours of new St. Catharines Site

 The new St. Catharines Site of the Niagara Health System opens on March 24, 2013.

Members of the public are invited for advance tours of the new state-of-the-art hospital.

 Saturday, January 12, and Saturday, January 26

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Please arrive before 3:30 p.m.New St. Catharines Site
1200 Fourth Avenue. Free parking on site – enter from main entrance on First Street Louth

 Please remember:

  • A non-perishable food item for donation to Community Care
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing (coat check not available)
  • Food and drinks are not permitted; please bring bottled water only.

 (Niagara At Large invites you to share your views on this post below. Remember that we only post views by individuals who also share their first and last name.)



12 responses to “Public Invited To Tour New Mega-Hospital Complex in St. Catharines/Niagara

  1. Doug, brilliant! The Hospital can’t say you didn’t get the word out about the open house. lol


  2. As one of the earlier ones in the fight (2006), it kind of turns your stomach to see what has happened over the years. What really breaks my heart is we might have really had a dazzling success of a regional hosptial if the NHS had listened to some of our brave doctors and built this complex around 406 and 20 as proposed. Then we might have had something we could all be proud of. As it is now, it will be a disaster for people in the south and eventually expensive compromises and adjustment will have to be made. A terrible opportunity wasted.


  3. A most comprehensive overview of the perilous position that the Southern Tier has been left in, thanks to the relentless mission NHS has been on. Totally ignoring the needs and wishes of the Southern communities has decimated the concept of either equal or accessible Health Services.
    Smith has now completed the HIP mission.
    Politicians, Doctors and communities object to the removal of more units from the Welland and Niagara Falls Hospitals. Like other protests this too will be ignored because the financial reality necessitates more support going to St Catharines.” Follow the money” has never been more pertinent.
    Mistake after mistake has been made from day one with no accountability.


  4. Doug way to go. You are always right on with my views. Central Hospital Central region. This location was the second worst political decision in Niagara’s history. The first was constructing the QEW down the middle of the best tender fruit growing land in the country. I enjoy your columns. Keep up the fight. Carol


  5. Guaranteed to be complete with frivalous features such as extensive use of stainless steel, floor to cieling window systems, granite, marble, artwork ……..
    It’s like the people that dream up these designs a:) don’t realize it is taxpayer dollars paying for it, b) that we need enhanced services not fluff and c) that these features do nothing other than piss people like me off because I am fed up with the taxes I pay to live in this area/region/province/country and the services I receive in return. This is a slap in the face.
    Think it stops here? Look at the new NRP HQ, new schools, new townhalls…. It seems that tax dollars must be in large supply considering the increased costs attached to build, maintain and operate buildings with these types of features.
    The sad thing…. one would think the people in charge of the purse strings (politicians and civic employees) being tax payers would get that! Just shows how stupid and out of touch they are!!!!
    Take a poll….. frivalous features versus essential services? Any thoughts out there on this one? Maybe when there are no wait times for diagnostic tests, no ER lines out the door, no CDIFF…..
    We need new government at all levels!
    Sadly, just sayin……


  6. The writing is on the wall…. FE & other Southern On. citizens are left at risk ! We have lost the right to equal ,accessible services our Constitution guarantees us . The inevitable looms over our pregnant mothers & vulnerable children!! So many “what if’s” pass through my mind when I think of any emergency that will inevitably occur in these two areas…… weather, length of travel time, severity of the problem…. our ambulances are not miracle workers and you KNOW these may be life & death situations ! How does one rationalize the risk the gov’t is taking with the lives of its tax paying people who have counted on a fair & equitable health system to meet their needs….. frills we don’t need….. ordinary , competent people & service we do need with a hospital within a reasonable distance…… that’s not too much to ask especially since we had that & were stripped of it! Life & Death is the mantra that should be foremost in the minds of those responsible for the decisions that have been made & are going to be made!!!!! Are you prepared to face the fallout from your decisions?


    • As you can imagine, these facilities you refer to may have been possible if such grandious government run facilities complete with atriums, waterfalls….. were replaced with something a little more utlitarian.
      You would think, atleast on a province wide basis, hospital, school and civic service buildings could be built from a template design such that those architects who design these things and their airy/fairy concepts were removed from the equation. By doing that the province could benefit from savings due streamlined building practices and economies of scale.
      So how do you feel about the compromise our politicians and, in this case, senior civic/heath management made on our behalf? Shut down some essential facilities in remote areas so we can have fluff in the ones that survive.
      Just sayin…..


  7. Great article as always Doug. You do say it like it is! There has to be a way to save the Maternity and Paediatric services from the imminent move to St. Catharines, and I don’t believe anyone has given up on that quest. Fort Erie has a great concern that access to the new hospital is out of reach in time and distance for serious emergencies and this is a Great Concern.
    Before the shovels were in the ground for the new hospital in St. Catharines, built in the furthest corner of the Peninsula, and the closures were in full force, we protested loud and clear, but were ignored. That was then and this is now – The hospital is up and it is ready and that cannot be changed. It is also all they promised and will be an asset to those who work there and those who are treated there. It will be uplifting for patients and their families and friends in times of stress and will not show the aged time and decay present in our older buildings. Time will tell how it works out, but in the meantime it is up and finished, and we have to move ahead to get the healthcare that we were promised in Canada.
    Healthcare has changed, not only here but all over Canada and the United States. Women used to have babies and they stayed in hospital for at least a week, and if you had your gallbladder removed you also stayed a week or so. Not now; as some women without complications deliver their baby and go home in a few hours and gallbladders are done as day surgery and patients are home the same day.
    We all have to work together to make our healthcare work. We have to see what is positive and go towards that centre, not all sit and complain, as there is no one answer or quick fix. We do need another hospital built in Niagara and we all cannot have it in our own backyard. That would be nice but it will not happen.
    The only two hospitals who were debt free were taken away from those who built and maintained them, were the ones to be sacrificed for the rest of the region, and nothing would make us happier but to have them back, but reason shows that we cannot rebuild or change them to accommodate today’s equipment and needs. We pleaded with all of the other communities to join us and stop the closures when we had a chance to do it, but only a very few individuals came forth. Nothing was done until they started to feel the cuts, but by then it was too late.
    Kevin Smith was sent here because of the unrest and mess we are in and has made several good choices, the biggest being the change in hierarchy of the NHS. They are now very available. If you want to speak to them they are no longer hidden behind closed doors. They do try to right the wrongs as they can and are people and patient oriented, unlike the Debbie Sevenpifer era. Having another large hospital built in Niagara is an excellent suggestion and we do need one that can be an easily accessible trauma centre with all equipment and physicians we need badly, to reduce wait times for needed tests and surgeries.
    We must be practical and work together with the NHS, the Government and Local leadership. We have to keep reminding our Government leaders that we are here and not to be ignored.


  8. Its sickening to read about the glorious state of the art new Hospital when we have been decimated to give it the needed financial support.
    Its tiresome to be the “Have Nots” while they rub it in our face,,,,,or elsewhere!


  9. While this monument to NHS stupidity was being built (at the west St. Catharines location), hundreds of Niagara’s citizens were dying of neglect and living in the filth of the other hospitals, with 24 hour wait times at St.Catharines Hospitals, no doctor on duty. My great grandchild was born in the ladies wash room – dead – right next to the NHS offices on Ontario Street. I curse those bastards every day.


  10. Wake up and smell the roses Joy. I toured the new hospital in St. Catharines. They assured us it will acommodate all of our hospital needs for the next 50 years and if they need to expand it, it was designed with the ability to go upwards and outwards and in many cases very reasonably as all they will have to do is renovate. Their OBS will be able to have 3,000 deliveries and in 2011 all of Niagara had a grand total of 2,271 births. Once OBS leaves for St. Catharines, it will not return.
    The new complex has a combined ED and UCC because they consider that best practise, but for us (the southern tier) we must separate those depts. and make sure the UCC is in a free standing leased building……so it can be closed down easily.
    There will not be another hospital built in Niagara in my lifetime or yours.
    The new complex is magnificent, but in the wrong location.


  11. Many of Us Pat, Susan, Doug and so many more who have been ignored, neglected and sneered at by hypocrites who profited from the location of this Taj Mahal in St Catharines, A monument to sleezy politicans, and to those hoping to monetarily benefit from their support or lack of support in a political game of up manship. Regional Councilor Rigby formerl mayor of St Catharines constantly ranted that it IS a St Catharines Hospital and I might be proven wrong but was he not involved in the “Location” phase of the development? BUT HE and MPP BRADLEY are right it is a St Catharines Hospital built at the expense of the health and welfare of the peoples of Southern Niarage. Do I think it is totally criminal, this stealing our of rights, our health care and the welfare of we people who relied on OUR own hospitals in Fort Erie, Port Colborne Welland and Niagara Falls built by our forefathers and mothers
    Damn Right I do and any respect I have will never be wasted on the NHS (In the Past, NOW or in the FUTURE) .
    Joy!! I have agreed with Pat and most of the other reality folks that there will never, surely in our time, be a new Hospital built to service and care for the Peoples of the southern tier of the Niagara Region You are wasting your time and breathe., ..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s