Petrolia wants to meet needs of aging population


Heather Wright

The Independent

Mike Lapaine says there is a gray tsunami coming and he’s glad to have help planning how to deal with it.

The CEO of Bluewater Health was in Petrolia Monday for the municipality’s public meeting on the Health Village concept.

The hospital wants to reorganize Petrolia’s Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital. “It has been 50 years since anything meaningful has been done to the hospital and there are a lot of areas which don’t meet current design standards,” he tells The Independent. “The ER doesn’t even come close to current standards considering the volume that goes through it… the hospital is long overdue for an upgrade.”

But Lapaine says the hospital can’t just make things better for now, it has to figure out what is needed in the next 20 years or so. And that means considering the gray tsunami. Lapaine says the number of people over the age of 75 will increase 50 per cent in the next 10 years and double in the next 20. That impacts how health care will be delivered and ultimately how the Petrolia hospital will be repurposed.

While Bluewater Health is trying to figure it out, the Town of Petrolia is using that data to see how Petrolia could be made better to meet that gray tsunami as well.

Lapaine says town officials approached the hospital last September saying it could benefit from the research Bluewater Health was doing.

Together they hired Dialog Consulting to figure out how best to meet the community’s needs and maintain strong health care services in the area.

“This is about extending health way beyond the hospital; we can be way more proactive encouraging healthy lifestyles and good food,” says Antonio Gomez-Palacio of Dialog.

“We want to look at the entire town and how we do things. It’s not about building one building to satisfy everyone, it’s how do we get things to work with each other.”

About 100 people looked at the information placing dots on items that were important to them, such as being able to walk around town and having good access to health care services, and things that they thought should be done better, such as improving patient wait times and access to different types of affordable housing.

And they had a chance to ask questions about the vision of a health village.

Some of the first concerns came from homeowners surrounding the hospital who worry eventually, their homes would be in the way of development and could be expropriated to make room for what is to come.

Lapaine told the crowd this was not about a building but what is best for the community to make Petrolia a centre of excellence for rural health care.

Councillor Mary Pat Gleeson, who is part of the group working on the health village, also expressed surprise by the concern. She says there was talk of senior’s housing in the beginning but it is still to be determined what the town could do to make Petrolia a good place for seniors.

Councillor Joel Field added the exercise is to ask “how do we plan for our community moving forward” adding the town could spend $150,000 to put a road in a certain area only to find later it should be moved. He believes spending that cash on planning is better.

Mayor John McCharles agreed adding “the real goal is sustainability for our hospital.

“When someone asks if we are going to expropriate his property… we’re not even close to knowing what the plan is. We’re looking at what the future brings. The concept out there is, there is going to be a building. But that’s not so.”

During the question and answer portion of the event some expressed concern about the services available at CEEH. One person questioned whether he would be able to go to the Petrolia hospital if he had a heart attack; right now, heart attack patients are redirected to Sarnia for treatment. Lapaine says the study will help the hospital determine what services are needed.

The town will take the input from Monday’s session and hopes to hold another open house in June.


  1. If you have not already consulted with Dale Mosley (City of Sarnia Accessabilty Co ordinator) he has the data on very recent research on aging in Sarnia. There is an established steering committee that is working in the same direction of which I am a part of.
    “Age friendly Sarnia” is based on the World Health Organization’s eight elements of healthy aging. The city of Sarnia has endorsed a plan and is moving to the implementation stage.
    Glad to hear about these initiatives. I am retired from 37 years as a registered nurse and have been assisting my elderly parents. I would say the “grey tsunami” definitely needs to be addressed.

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