Water line break at CEEH underlines needs for infrastructure cash

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Bluewater Health officials say they were prepared to move patients at the continuing care unit at Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital after a water line broke.
The Sunday incident is a sign of some of the major issues with the old infrastructure at the Petrolia hospital according to Julia Oosterman, communications director with Bluewater Health.
Petrolia/North Enniskillen firefighters were called to the hospital, twice, after an alarm sounded. Oosterman says a joint in a water pipe broke.
“In the breaking of the joint, water went everywhere and triggered a sprinklers,” she says. That automatically triggered a call to 9-11.
Oosterman says the firefighters and Bluewater Health staff brought everything under control in less than an hour. But they were also prepared for the worst.
With aging, fragile patients in the continuing care wing, hospital officials were concerned.
“There were people on the standby ready to take patients out of the area if we couldn’t get the heating back on,” she says.
“We were lucky it wasn’t a frigid, frigid night and it didn’t take long to get fixed.
“It will happen again,” Oosterman says.
“This is a much older building and were not…exaggerating when we talk about the infrastructure needs of this facility.”
Two years ago, hospital officials shocked Petrolia councillors when they said the needs were dire and a power failure could shut down the hospital for weeks.

Since then, the province has provided about $1.3 million in emergency funding to help deal with the aging infrastructure and Oosterman says it has helped.
“We are not in the truly catastrophic state we were in a year-and -a-half ago.”
Since receiving the provincial cash, the sewer systems, generators, water lines, and electrical panels have been renewed.
“In the next few months we’ll be completing preparation of the area for the new boiler room,” she adds.
And, Oosterman says Bluewater Health will be heading back to the province for more cash.
Originally, officials were looking for $5 million to upgrade CEEH’s infrastructure, so Oosterman says it is likely the hospital will look for $3 to $4 million to complete the needed work.
“We’re grateful a lot has already been done,” she says. “But this (breakdown) does not come as a total surprise.
“While it is a little frustrating (to wait for funding) we’re hopeful we can continue to work with Queen’s Park …
“We’re building an infrastructure foundation…that is so strong we can build on top of it for the whole new redesign of the hospital.
The province has already committed $7 million to a 25 year plan to completely renew the campus, starting with a redesign of the emergency department.
“While we all want to see a new ED because that is what the average person can see, what is so critical is that we are able to run the hospital and not evacuate people because there is no heat.”
Oosterman says Bluewater Health will likely apply for more infrastructure funding in May.
It can take months for the provincial government to review the applications.