Mega-hospital gets cash in 2017 provincial budget

There's cash for a new hospital for Windsor in the 2017 provincial budget, tabled Thursday afternoon in Queen's Park.

Niagara will also be receiving a new hospital, along with upgrades and redevelopment for existing facilities in Hamilton, Mississauga and James Bay as part of $9 billion over 10 years earmarked for new hospital projects.

"This is an amazing day for Windsor and Essex," said Dave Cooke, co-chair of the mega-hospital steering committee. "I don't think words can express how happy we all are."

Cooke added the next step in the process is getting specific details from the Ministry of Health followed by "a couple of years" of additional planning, but said it's no longer a question of if we get a new hospital but when.

Location, location, location

Members of the group opposing the location of the hospital are pleased with the funding announcement, but they still plan to push for what they see as a better site.

"What I'm not seeing in the wording is them approving the location," said Philippa von Ziegenweidt, spokesperson for Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process. "The funding for phase two does not necessarily mean the location is tied down."

Overall, the province is pledging an additional $7 billion over the next three years for measures designed to boost access to health care, reduce wait times and "enhance patient experience."

There is also $1.3 billion to reduce wait times for specialists, as well as for procedures such as knee and hip replacements and cataract surgery, and for expanding access to home-based and community care, such as in-home nursing and personal support workers.

Hospital funding is going up by 3 per cent to the tune of $518 million to "support vital services, keep wait times low, and maintain access to elective surgeries," the budget reads.

Also in the budget for Windsor, the province confirmed its commitment to a high-speed rail line in the Toronto to Windsor corridor. A high-speed rail line would cut travel time between the two cities from four to two hours.

The province said it will "now advance the comprehensive environmental assessment and support additional design and planning work for the corridor" and is "considering the development of a governing body that would provide oversight for the ambitious work required to design and implement high‐speed rail."

The province also promised support for black youth in Windsor. The province said it is "committed to developing a plan to more specifically address the needs and improve the outcomes of black youth in Windsor, Ottawa and the GTHA." Back in March, the province announced a $47 million investment over four years to support black children and youth.

No cash for widening Highway 3 was unveiled in this budget.

The province did announce funding for the rehabilitation of Highway 401 in Chatham-Kent from 4.4 km east of Merlin Road to 5 km west of Bloomfield Road and from 2 km west of Mull Side Road to 1.4 km west of Victoria Road. Construction is expected to start in 2018 and be completed by 2020.