Thursday, 24 April 2014, 12:30 am

South Niagara closer to new hospital

Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care.  PHOTO BY NICK FEARNSBy NICK FEARNS
Staff Writer
The people of South Niagara are one step closer to a new hospital, but they will have to wait a little while longer.
Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care, announced the province will be providing the Niagara Health System (NHS) with a $26.2-million planning grant to build a new hospital and two urgent care centres.
“Our government is committed to a new, state-of-the-art hospital in South Niagara, and to ensuring that every community in the region has timely access to best quality health care,” said Matthews.
The new hospital and centres are meant to replace aging hospital sites in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The government also announced that the NHS is now out of supervision and will continue with Kevin Smith in a leadership role. Smith is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the St. Joseph’s Health System in Hamilton.
The NHS has signed a management contract with the St. Joseph’s Health system to allow Smith to serve as CEO of both health systems.
“We’ve made tremendous progress to get the Niagara Health System on solid footing,” said Smith. “Our staff, physicians and volunteers are to be commended for their work to ensure Niagara residents receive the highest quality care.
“A new hospital is the way forward to ensure the Niagara Health system meets growing future health care demands in the region.”
Smith said it will require a “12 to 18 month process” to determine when the hospital would be built. Deciding where the urgent care centres will be placed is part of that same process.
John Grassi, of the Grassi family from Toronto, has donated 30 acres of land at the intersection of Lyons Creek and Montrose, close to the highway.
The location has caused concern in some town councils. The Welland council would prefer a site closer to the city at the intersection of Highway 140 and East Main Street in Welland.
Barry Wright, chair of the NHS board of directors, said that he was pleased with the news of the new hospital.
 Wright added that the “future of health care in our community has never been brighter.”
“Building this hospital is about creating efficiency, saving money, and providing the most up to date and accessible health care for the residents of Niagara,” said Mayor Jim Diodati, of Niagara Falls. “We are very positive about this exciting step by the government and look forward to getting the shovel in the ground.”
While Diodati had kind words for the provincial Liberals, Bart Maves, the Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate for the Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake riding, did not.
“I’m happy that the Liberals are finally on side for a Niagara South Hospital – it’s just too bad it takes a byelection to make them see the light,” said Maves in a statement.

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