There was no golden shovel but lots of excitement Friday when a virtual announcement took the place of a public ground-breaking ceremony for Markdale’s new hospital.
Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, MPP Bill Walker and MP Alex Ruff, municipal politicians and the Centre Grey foundation head all spoke to share the news that onsite work was to begin Monday, March 1.
The Premier called the community’s effort in fundraising “incredible.” The Markdale hopsital serves Southgate and other neighbouring communities, as well.
MPP Bill Walker, who spoke frequently in the Ontario legislature keeping the cause of the hospital alive, said “it’s a great day in Markdale.”
“I do have a huge smile on my face that you can’t see for obvious reasons.”
His advocacy since his election for Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound in 2011 came in for praise from several who spoke.
Speakers didn’t shy away from the topic of the long wait. The amount of $7 million in the 2003 campaign was given by one speaker.
Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen, who was on Artemesia Township at that time, corrected the record, stating that $13 million was raised locally.
When the public phase of the campaign began in 2004, $6 million in support from major gifts from local funders including individuals, industry and service clubs was in place. Another $7 million were raised during the public campaign.
The community surprised itself at the time, and then in turn was left in disbelief by alternating promises and delays over two decades.
“Faith has carried us to this day, and now Markdale and surrounding area will have the much-needed new hospital,” said Betty Bassett, Centre Grey Foundation Chair.
Fundraising will need to continue, she said.
“Stand by us and we will see you at the Grand Opening of the new hospital in a couple of years.”
During the online event, fitting tribute was paid to all those who contributed to the original campaign almost two decades ago, including those who are no longer here, and whose support is now their legacy.
Warden Selwyn Hicks remarked on “the fiery passion our residents have for this hospital.”
“Rural hospitals are pillars of small communities,” he said.
The Premier referred to the province’s “mammoth” $53 million investment, which follows the money granted during the planning and design stages.
Bird Construction, which has completed other large health care projects, was the firm chosen for the build.
Gary Sim, GBHS, CEO, said the build means “securing another 50 to 60 years of top-notch health-care close to home for a community that has given and given and patiently waited.”
The GBHS media release estimated the total cost at about $63 million. More public fundraising will be needed to close the gap, said Betty Bassett, president of the Centre Grey foundation.
Construction is expected to take two years. Asked later by the Herald/Advance if current supply issues of construction materials could affect the project, Mr. Sims said that the bidders placed locks on the amount of material and price when preparing their bids.
“The steel has doubled since the time of the original bid,” he said. “They’ve locked theirs in.”
Mr. Sims addressed resident during the announcement, saying “To all those people who have waited as long as you have – I want to say it’s finally time.”
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald