Local mayors visit Merrickville-Wolford asking for hospital funding

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The mayors of Smiths Falls and Perth paid a visit to Merrickville-Wolford council last Monday to request funding for the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital. The two campuses of the Hospital serve 60,000 people in Smiths Falls, Perth and surrounding areas. With a budget of $62.5 million, they employ 535 staff and have a volunteer base of 300. Ninety-two per cent of hospital staff live in the counties of Lanark or Leeds-Grenville.

Although the hospital does receive some funding from the province, this does not cover the cost of essential equipment needed to provide a high level of care and to maintain its exemplary standing. Having the most up to date equipment also helps in the attraction and retention of high-quality physicians to the hospital. “All the things that touch you are not covered by the province,” says Mayor of Perth, John Fenik. “It is critical to have the most up-to-date systems to attract doctors.”

Equipment costs are typically covered by hospital-based income (parking etc.) and fundraising by the hopital auxiliary. Unfortunately, even with the projected funding from those two sources sitting at $1.5 million, it still leaves a shortfall of $1.6 million that the hospital needs to keep up to date with things like Electronic Hospital Records, MRI, and ongoing annual capital equipment.

To help close the gap, the hospital is looking for funding from the municipalities that it serves. Mayor John Fenik and Mayor Shawn Pankow have been traveling around to the various municipalities, asking them to include funding for the hospital in their 2019 budget deliberations. Based on the formula they used, which takes into consideration the population of the municipality and how many residents use the hospital per year, they have asked Merrickville-Wolford to set aside $36,733 for the hospital in next year’s budget. This equates to about $11.98 per person, or 0.86 per cent of the tax rate. “Healthcare is the most important thing that we can deliver to our constituents,” Mayor Pankow said at the meeting.

Council agreed to include the request in their 2019 budget deliberations; however Mayor David Nash said it may not be necessary, as there is a chance that the County will be providing funding for the hospital instead. “The County Council agreed that, rather than individual municipalities dealing with hospital funding requests, they would direct those requests to the County for consideration,” he says. “A resolution was passed setting aside 0.5 per cent of the levy for that purpose.”

According to David, the County has already approved funding for hospitals in Kemptville, Brockville and Kingston. Mayor Pankow and Mayor Fenik will be making a presentations to County Council later this month, and it is possible that the total amount of their request could be approved, over a period of time. “I cannot speak for the County Council as to what will be approved, but I will certainly support their request,” Mayor Nash said.

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