Calling it “the next big step” in health care, Petrolia is shelling out $155,000 for a plan to provide housing and health care for the coming seniors tsunami.
Town council has agreed to partner with Bluewater Health to develop a Rural Health Care Hub. Bluewater Health, which will provide $440,000 for a consultants plan, wants to redevelop Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital. CAO Mike Lapaine says it needs to be reconfigured so health care professionals can work more efficiently. For example, he says, a former surgical suite should be removed to enlarge the emergency department and make it more functional.
But Lapaine says the Ministry of Health looks more favourably on big projects which have partners. So when officials from the Central Lambton Family Health Team came to him asking about the vision for the hospital and how it wanted to develop a plan to care for the growing senior population, Lapaine was all ears.
“They’re looking at other issues outside the hospital; how much assisted living capacity will we need, how much long-term care capacity will we need, what sort of things do we need for our special needs population.”
Petrolia’s CAO Manny Baron says the vision is fairly simple — the town would work on the planning side to create an area to encourage private developers to build structures such as condos, apartments, and assisted care homes in the area around CEEH. It could include selling land owned by the town located around the health team building.
The study, Lapaine says, will give an accurate picture of future needs so both Bluewater Health and the town can plan.
While all councillors voiced support for the plan, some were concerned a decision to move forward seemed rushed. Councillor Ross O’Hara says the town recently passed its budget and now is spending $155,000 which hasn’t been budgeted. Councillor Grant Purdy agreed, saying the public should have been consulted first.
Baron says the cash can be taken out of reserves and will be repaid if the town sells land to developers and in taxes generated by any new developments in the long term.
Lapaine says the plan for the redeveloped hospital and what he calls a “superstore” of senior housing and services should take a year to complete. It then has to be submitted to the ministry. “This is far sighted and visionary,” says Lapaine. “The fact we are partnering (with Petrolia) will play well with the decision makers.”