As I travel throughout Niagara West – Glanbrook, jobs, healthcare, hydro costs and education come up time and time again as the priorities of residents in Niagara.
Healthcare is an especially important issue in West Niagara, the area serviced by the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. Although the hospital has served West Niagara very well since it was first opened in 1948, it has become dated and in desperate need of upgrades and redevelopment to serve the growing healthcare needs of the region.
For the many years, residents and local representatives have brought the need for a new hospital to multiple provincial governments, and the redevelopment of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital has been one of my top priorities since being elected. In fact, the very first question I asked in my first day in the Legislature was to the Minister of Health, asking him for assurance that the government will listen to the calls for redevelopment.
I was hopeful that the 2017 provincial budget would finally contain real action on this need. However, when the budget was released, WLMH was overlooked once again. Residents were rightly disappointed, even more so when the government promised capital funding for a new South Niagara Hospital, to replace the Welland, Fort Erie, and Port Colborne hospitals, which are currently slated for closure.
Unfortunately, after 14 years of mismanagement, it has become difficult to believe the government’s promises. In 2004, the government called redevelopment of WLMH a priority. It seems that was just a “stretch goal”.
The government promised in 2005 that construction would begin by 2009. Then the government promised shovels would be in the ground by 2011. The next promise was that redevelopment would begin in 2013. Then, after years of promises, the government’s 2012 budget cancelled the project entirely. The only guarantee of a new hospital is a new government.
The government’s rationing of healthcare needs to stop, and the redevelopment of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital must become a reality. An astonishing crowd of more than 8,000 people rallied at Grimsby Secondary School (incidentally, now slated for closure by the government) in support of WLMH after the 2012 budget announcement. My predecessor as Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP, Tim Hudak presented the government with more than 12,000 signed petitions and our community donated $14.5 million towards the rebuild. Overwhelming community support for this overdue project is clear.
It is also clear that this government’s track record of hollow promises can’t be trusted, so I will continue to do everything I can to bring attention to this need and obtain a solid commitment for WLMH’s redevelopment. I encourage you to contact the Minister of Health and Premier Wynne with your perspective on the hospital.