City commits $1 million to hospital

By Kirk Winter

RMH makes large financial ask of city for new equipment

Kawartha Lakes council voted unanimously to donate $1 million to the Ross Memorial Foundation capital fundraising campaign for 2021.

While a donation of some kind from the city was never in doubt, the amount and the possibility of a longer term commitment from the city elicited considerable discussion.

The foundation first approached the city in June 2021, sharing with council that the hospital was looking to raise $15 million to pay for technologies like a new CT scanner and an MRI machine. The fundraising group was hoping that the city might consider funding upwards of $7 million.

The only initial commitment the city made to the hospital in June is that the issue would be revisited at budget time once all the municipality’s financial responsibilities were better known.

Last week the city kept its promise, and as part of the operating budget debate, council took some time to look deeper into what they could afford, and how long a commitment they were comfortable with.

“I think a one-time donation is appropriate,” Mayor Andy Letham said. “We are at the end of our term and we shouldn’t be committing the next council.”

Mayor Andy Letham.

Letham proposed that the city donate $1 million to the hospital, with $400,000 coming out of pandemic money received from senior levels of government and $600,000 coming from the city’s contingency fund.

While council was largely supportive of the mayor’s proposal, both councillor Pat Dunn and councillor Doug Elmslie expressed their frustrations that upper levels of government still refuse to cover the capital costs for Ontario hospitals, and that municipalities are asked to pick up the slack.

Councillor Tracy Richardson supported the donation calling Ross “a cornerstone of the community.”

Councillor Elmslie offered his support saying,” Everyone in the city uses the hospital. We need to look after our own citizens. Future councils can make future commitments. This is the right thing to do.”

Deputy-mayor O’Reilly supported the donation also saying that during the pandemic the hospital has provided wonderful service to the community as a whole.

While Ross only got a small piece of what they were looking for, Kelly Isfan, president and CEO of Ross Memorial Hospital, was very pleased with the municipal support.

“We’re so grateful that our municipal partners are investing in their local hospital once again to ensure the best care for local residents now and into the future. Because provincial funding doesn’t cover the costs of new and replacement equipment and technology, hospitals and municipalities must work together to deliver critical projects that meet the needs of their communities. With municipal support for this vital hospital investment, others will be inspired to contribute, and together, we will move the Hospital forward into the digital age with better connections and better care for all local residents,” Isfan said.

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