On a bright day in April 2017, the head of Bluewater Health declared the future of Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital was secure. The provincial government had announced a $7.5 million grant to reconfigure and update the historic hospital.
By September, Laurie Zimmer, vice president of operations for Bluewater Health, was telling residents at an open house she was hopeful work would begin in the next two or two and a half years.
Two years later, the plans are just that plans, without final approval from the provincial government.
The 25-year plan for the complete redevelopment of the Petrolia hospital begins with the reconstruction of the emergency and diagnostics departments which in 2017 were said to be in “immediate need of renovation.”
The emergency department was originally designed for 7000 visits, and now 22,000 people come to Petrolia’s ER every year. The hope was to redesign the area to make patient flow better. There are also plans for a new diagnostic department.
In 2017, hospital officials placed the need for a new power plant third on the list of things to do at CEEH. Then in 2018, Bluewater Health applied for special funding with officials saying if the hospital were to lose power today, it could be out for three weeks. The hospital needs $5 million for that work.
Zimmer says work on the projects has not been approved yet and she’s not sure when it will be.”
“The capital process is a very long process,” Zimmer tells The Independent.
“We anticipated when the government changed there would be further delays however we have been in contact with our capital government representative as well as keeping (Sarnia-Lambton MPP) Bob Bailey abreast of the situation and our community partners know…they’re updated frequently as to where we are.
Bailey says he’s had several conversations with the Minister of Health about the needs in Petrolia. And Bailey knows the need for the especially for the new power plant is “critical.”
The MPP says the CEEH request is in the beginning stages of the grant project for the $5 million for the power plant from the Hosptial Infrastructure Renewal Fund. But he says there are a number of other hospitals in the province – including Strathroy and London – have similar issues. Bailey says there is $60 million in the HIRF and there are “a lot of people looking for money. We’re in the really early stages right now.”
And while Bailey has been talking up the project to the minister, “this project is not going to take precedence over another” because he’s a government MPP now. He says he’s always suggested the projects should stand on their own merit not get funding based on who is the MPP in the area.
Bailey added it is not clear when the Ministry of Health will make a decision on the funding.
In the meantime, Zimmer says Bluewater Health has “done a lot of work…really keeping the facility of Petrolia’s hospital running” since the announcement, but there is really no way of telling when the province might give the go ahead to begin hiring contractors.
“(Bluewater Health president) Mike Lapine and our team have been in constant contact with our MPP…the government is well aware of our situation and we keep it at the forefront of the conversation for the Petrolia,” says Zimmer.
“It is important to keep the message alive and to make sure we’re not forgotten her in Petrolia.”