Saturday October 25, 2014

Gov’t to decide on new hospital

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Weyburn’s Hospital Foundation is in good shape financially, and the ball is now in the province’s court about when the city is going to get a new acute-care hospital to replace the Weyburn General Hospital.

This was the message passed on from Adam Knight, chair of the Hospital Foundation, to members of the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce at the season’s first breakfast information meeting, held Wednesday morning at the Travelodge. The meeting also heard from Marga Cugnet, CEO of the Sun Country Health Region, and Wanda Miller, regional director of Primary Care for Sun Country.

Knight noted the Hospital Foundation had $14.5 million on hand at the end of March, and are now just under $15 million, including $3.4 million in the bank.

“One of the things we did was meet with the minister of Health, Dustin Duncan, in May, and asked him what steps are necessary to get a new hospital here. It’s strictly the ministry that has to make the decision now; we’ve done everything necessary to go ahead with the project now,” said Knight.

The minister, who is also the Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA, said they will not announce a hospital for Weyburn until they are ready and have their funds in place.

“We’re going to continue to fund-raise. It comes down to people getting on the phone to their MLA or the premier,” said Knight, suggesting a ball-park figure for a new hospital will be between $75 and $100 million.

Assuming the higher amount of $100 million (“given Weyburn’s size,” said Knight), the local community is responsible for raising $20 million, and Knight said as they are at $15 million, they are well on their way from their point of view.

He also noted that part of the local responsibility is helping pay for the cost of equipment, which they don’t know as Sun Country doesn’t know yet what they will be approved for in the new hospital.

“We have to develop a plan about what type of equipment we’re going to need, and approach some of the larger oil producers to help us out,” said Knight.

“We don’t have a location, or the decision to go ahead, so it’s hard to know, how do we ask for funds? We’re going to formalize our fundraising goal so we can approach those companies,” added Knight, noting the Foundation is always looking for new volunteers for the board of directors, and new ideas.

Asked how much the equipment for the new Moose Jaw hospital is going to cost, Knight admitted he didn’t know. Cugnet interjected also that the Moose Jaw hospital will be bigger as a regional hospital, than a district hospital which is what Weyburn is likely to get. She noted an example of a difference is that Moose Jaw will have 10 operating rooms, where Weyburn’s facility might have two.

“We’ve done all we can, now it’s a political decision,” said Knight. “We’ve done some significant projects with the Triple C Centre and the Wor-Kin Shop, and we seem to have addressed the doctor shortage in Weyburn for the time being. It’s a matter of when they decide, and they’ll make the decision when they have the money in place.”

Chamber member George Siourounis pointed out recent comments made about the twinning of Highway 6 and 39 were made as a result of political pressure being put on, “and maybe we have to do the same thing to catch the attention of the bureaucrats in Regina.”

Knight said this is likely true, but he didn’t feel this was the job the foundation should be doing, instead of simply being the fundraising arm for the project.

Asked how long a new hospital would take if it were announced today, Knight said it would take three or four years, which Cugnet agreed with.

When the question of a proposed location arose, Cugnet said Sun Country has met with the City of Weyburn, and some identifiable locations have been discussed, but she is not able to publicly mention what they are yet.

“There are a lot of logistics that have to be considered,” added Cugnet.

In her remarks to the Chamber, Cugnet gave an update about the number of physicians who are preparing to come to Sun Country.

The health region had eight physicians in the provincial assessment program, SIPPA, and seven of the eight passed. Of these seven, five are coming to Weyburn, four to be working in the Primary Health Clinic to be located at MNP Place (former Co-op store) downtown, arriving here in January, and one yet to do a six-week practicum, to arrive here in November.

“We’ll be starting to recruit for a nurse practitioner,” added Cugnet, referring to the new Primary Care Cenre to be located in downtown Weyburn, tentatively to open in December.

Chamber manager Jeff Richards wrapped up the meeting with remarks on the issues raised, including that of the new hospital. He noted that the president of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce once commented to him about government finaneing.

“He once told me that it’s not government money, it’s your money. They’re just redistributing your money. The money coming out of the southeast is paying the bills, so for us to ask for a hospital is not unreasonable. At this point, it’s up to the province of Saskatchewan to say,” said Richards.

As for the doctors who are on their way, he noted the doctor recruitment committee has met them all, and pointed out that mostly, “they’re young with young families, a couple of them have young kids. We’ve got an opportunity to create the next generation of long-term doctors in the city.”

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