Windsor

Mega-hospital land rezoning approved after 9-hour council meeting

After a nine-hour meeting which bled late into the night, Windsor city council approved the rezoning of the new $2B mega-hospital on County Road 42 near the airport — despite a majority of public delegates urging them not to do so.

Doctor warns new hospital location will put the community at risk for limited access to critical care

City council had a full house Monday evening with 54 delegates signing up to speak about the mega-hospital rezoning. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

After a nine-hour meeting, Windsor city council approved the rezoning of the new $2B mega-hospital on County Road 42 near the airport — despite a majority of public delegates urging them not to do so.

"I think it's the right move and the right location," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

City council voted 8-2 in favour of the motion at the end of the meeting which started Monday at 6 p.m. and ended Tuesday at 3:45 a.m. Approval was needed before construction on the mega-hospital could begin.

One public delegate, Dr. Albert Kadri, was strongly against moving the hospital, saying it could put the community at risk and increase mortality rates. He spoke several times throughout the night and was met with applause and a standing ovation from people in the council chambers.

Kadri said many people with urgent and emergent conditions that visit the emergency room usually do not come by ambulance, but rather they visit the emergency room hoping to get a condition checked out.

"A lot of them are unaware of how serious their condition is until they've had that appropriate testing done," said Kadri. 

"Some of them deteriorate acutely within the emergency room and need a higher level of care than is provided in the emergency room."

Drew Dilkens says he expects there to be an appeal whether rezoning passes or not, because no location will make everyone happy. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

He said the acute care centre to be placed downtown as an emergency room replacement would not give people access to that necessary critical care.

Kadri warned that people's conditions may deteriorate in the care centre, then suddenly find themselves in the wrong facility that does not have the level of services they require.

"Physicians who work in the emergency room see that regularly," said Kadri.

No location is perfect

Some public delegates were in favour of the new hospital.

Barry Zekelman, represented by Bill Smith through a letter, said the hospitals are aging and outdated.

"We need to provide our community and our health care professionals with the updated health care facilities we deserve," read Smith. "No solution or location will ever be perfect, but no action is not an option," read Smith.

Ward 4 Councillor Chris Holt says closing down the Metropolitan campus of Windsor Regional Hospital would mean people can no longer walk to work. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Dilkens echoed the sentiment that no location is perfect.

He said he fully expects dissenters to file an appeal if the rezoning was approved, but he also would expect people to file an appeal if it wasn't approved.

"Doesn't matter what location was chosen, there would be a group of people in the city who would be very passionate against that particular location and would want some other location," said Dilkens.

In a statement released Tuesday, Windsor Regional Hospital says patients are "a step closer to the state-of-the-art, modern health care they deserve." 

The statement emphasizes there won't be a reduction in beds at the hospital or a closure of Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington. The hospital has plans to include an "Urgent Care Centre," but location remains undetermined.

Upcoming appeal

Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process (CAMPP), the organization that has been vocal against moving the hospital, will be filing an appeal.

Spokesperson Philippa von Ziegenweidt said while she is disappointed to see the rezoning pass after a long night, she was not surprised.

"We've already analyzed this and we have some very specific things where this just doesn't comply with the planning policy and the official plan," she said.

Philippa von Ziegenweidt says it was great to see people so engaged in this issue. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

One week before the meeting, CAMPP released a report criticizing the necessary zoning changes for the hospital construction to begin.

While the night didn't swing in the group`s favour, von Ziegenweidt found it "uplifting" that so many people showed up.

"That's really something fantastic. It means people are engaged. It validates all the work we've done," she said.

'Cities are for hospitals'

Ward 4 councillor Chris Holt wanted to refer the mega-hospital decision back to city administration for further study, but the motion did not pass.

His main concern is that moving the hospital out of downtown means losing an amenity.

And with the hospital being a big employer, people who live close to the hospital and walk to work will no longer be able to do that.

"This is not a cheap, disposable decision we made here tonight," said Holt.

Margaret Reimer who lives in Ward 4 said it's not time for Windsor to make this big move yet.

"We can develop out there when we've grown too big to contain us all, so it's not now," said Reimer.

And in her brother-in-law's words, "'Cities are for hospitals, farm land's for farmers.'"

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