RMH makes large financial ask of city for new equipment

Ashmore disappointed in province for not providing more funds

By Kirk Winter

RMH makes large financial ask of city for new equipment

Ross Memorial Hospital’s leader is seeking as much as $7.5 million from the city over the next five city budgets.

At a special meeting of council on June 29, senior staff and volunteers from RMH presented a plan regarding upgrades and improvements necessary at the hospital that will cost about $15 million.

With no funding for new equipment forthcoming from the province, the hospital has already privately raised $5 million necessary to purchase primarily new CT and MRI scanners plus IV pumps, cardiac monitors and ECGs.

Kelly Isfan, president and CEO of RMH.

In a brief presented to council, Kelly Isfan, president and CEO of RMH, said there was a long history of cooperation between the hospital and the municipality. She explained why the equipment needs to be upgraded and what the future looks like for RMH, particularly if the new machinery is not bought.

“We are most grateful for the City of Kawartha Lakes’ past support of Ross Memorial Hospital,” Isfan said. “The city’s most recent contribution (of $7 million in 2002) to the hospital…took the hospital from 156 beds to a 218 bed capacity and doubled the size of the hospital with an expanded emergency department, new palliative and rehabilitation wing and new inpatient mental health unit.”

The need for the new scanners featured prominently in Isfan’s presentation.

“New MRI and CT scanners are faster and give more detail and enable earlier diagnosis and treatment. Our diagnostic imaging department conducts 75,000 exams a year, and as technology evolves, the demand will only increase.”

Isfan made sure council understood the importance of these new machines when it came to recruiting new doctors.

“Technology enhancements enable us to recruit and retain quality physicians and medical staff. Adding to the pressures that we face, community hospitals expect to see 25 to 30 percent of their workforce turnover due to retirements in the coming years. Our most pressing challenge will be attracting top talent to the hospital and we will be at a disadvantage without technology and up-to-date equipment.”

Given that other municipalities are investing in their hospitals, she said RMH requests that council consider the information and the hospital’s request for financial support during the upcoming 2022 budget deliberations.

Councillor Doug Elmslie.

Councillor Doug Elmslie told council these issues “always come back to money and I am disappointed that senior levels of government have looked the other way when issues like this occur.”

“We already share funding with the Ross for the doctor recruitment program and the paramedic home visit program. Our support of Ross Memorial has been on-going.”

Elmslie was prepared to put a motion forward at that point to ask staff to come back to council in the fall with ways for the city to support the purchase of new machinery at the hospital. Mayor Andy Letham asked that the councillor hold off until other voices around the table had a chance to speak.

Deputy-mayor Patrick O’Reilly was on council the last time Ross Memorial needed significant municipal help in 2002.

“I was involved 19 years ago and after much discussion and careful consideration our support was given. Ross is an important part of the community and I look forward to a robust budget debate in the fall.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore, who represents the city on the hospital board, was shocked that so little money is available from the province for new equipment and that so much of the money needed to be raised from the community.

Ashmore asked Dr. Mario Voros, a diagnostic radiologist working at both Ross and the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, what the plan is province-wide to deal with the almost 500,000 people waiting for procedures that have been set back by COVID-19 precautions.

Voros they are always trying to try to catch up.

“Our local scanner is down. Peterborough’s is being replaced, also putting real pressure on the system. We run extra hours and see extra patients when we can. We unfortunately have to prioritize patients with cancer scans being given priority. There are only so many machines and so much time.”

Voros promised that post-pandemic there would be a “big catch-up” and a “tsunami of patients” trying to be squeezed in for imaging and surgery.

Councillor Pat Dunn asked hospital executives to get the numbers council needs to know “as soon as possible.”

“Some of our support for this ask will come in the form of a special levy, but some will have to be allocated from other parts of the budget.”

Letham returned to Elmslie who then put a proposal forward that the request for support of equipment purchases at RMH be submitted to staff for study with a decision in time for 2022 budget deliberations.

Council supported Elmslie’s motion unanimously.

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