January 28, 2020 County Council Highlights

Hospital Foundation highlights accomplishments

Presenting to members of County Council on January 28, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Foundation Executive Paul Jenkins highlighted the hospital’s many accomplishments in 2019, including adding a second mammography unit in April, a transfer of $1.2 million in June from Foundation to the Hospital and almost $45,000 raised through an annual Tim Hortons Smile Cookie campaign. In 2020, the St. Thomas General Hospital Foundation will invest more than $1 million to support the needs of the hospital.

 St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Foundation

‘Excellent’ EMS service provided in St. Thomas-Elgin
Elgin County Council’s ongoing analytics-driven review of Elgin-St. Thomas EMS is helping to guide their decision making regarding a proposed service enhancement. According to Elgin County Chief Administrative Officer Julie Gonyou, “EMS staff are passionate about providing quality care to our residents,” she said. Ambulance service in Elgin is unique, with a long, thin geography and over 70 kms of shoreline to cover. As well, areas close to the 401 are required to have additional resources in otherwise low call volume areas. While the number of EMS calls has seen a gradual increase (1.86% over the past 10 years), there is a rising number of occurrences when there are three (3) or fewer Elgin Ambulances to respond. The province, who runs 911 dispatch will ensure the next closest ambulance will respond. While this hasn’t had a significant impact on response times, assessing whether Elgin has sufficient resources to address our growing population remains top of mind for Council. Gonyou recommended that County Council consult with the City of St. Thomas, who co-fund the program to discuss whether it is financially and operationally feasible to enhance the level of service by 12-hours/week commencing in July. The full Elgin-St. Thomas EMS report can be accessed here.

Recruitment and retention focus of Long Term Care Homes plan

With ongoing challenges in recruitment and retention of staff at Elgin’s three long-term care homes, Michele Harris Director of Homes and Senior Services reiterated to Elgin County Councillors that right now all health care sectors are in crisis. She called current staff phenomenal, but said they are working short staffed at times. In her report she said that 80 percent of Long Term Care Homes are experiencing difficulty filling shifts, while 90 percent are experiencing recruitment challenges. Fifty percent of students entering a PSW program do not enter the profession. She listed several different low/no cost options for recruitment and retention in her report including revitalizing the coaches program, working with local high school to increase opportunities for co-op placements and volunteering and reviewing and revamping the recruitment process.

Job Site Challenge looks for large, serviceable tracts of land

The Province of Ontario’s recently launched Job Site Challenge to identify mega sites within the province that manufacturers could invest in will potentially help properties such as the Ford lands in Southwold. For the challenge, mega-sites are considered to be large tracts of land anywhere from 500 to 1,500 acres that are, or could be, serviced and able to support large-scale manufacturing operations. The County’s Economic Development department is encouraging owners of private lands and Municipalities that own land to submit sites that meet the requirement. The proposal deadline is March 31, 2020. Selected sites will be marketed by both the Province and the site selector to the global investment community. The sites would form an overall inventory of fully-serviced mega-sites in the Province.

Port Stanley Lift Bridge closure requires significant detour routes

The King George VI Lift Bridge in Port Stanley will undergo significant rehabilitation with anticipated construction from March 2020 to May 2021. During construction the bridge will be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic with a detour route that will utilize Colborne Street, Warren Street and Carlow Road. Improvements in support of such detours will include the introduction of a southbound right turn only lane on Warren Street as well as a northbound left turn only lane. At the intersection of Carlow Road and Warren Street a northbound right turn only lane will be introduced, as well as temporary traffic signals with vehicle detection and railway pre-emption technology. In addition, where pedestrian sidewalks end, there will be an investment in additional permanent pedestrian crossovers. An additional cost of $69,700 plus HST for design, inspection and administration of the detour route improvements was awarded to GM BluePlan, bringing the total project investment to just over $6.5 million.

Rodney construction anticipated to run April-September 2021

Reconstruction of Furnival Road and Queens Line in Rodney is likely set to start by April 2021. Furnival Road, a two-lane, minor arterial road, and Queens Line, a two-lane collector road, were last reconstructed in 1974 and resurfaced with asphalt in 1997, placing them both at the end of their lifecycles. Phase 1 of the project (preliminary and detailed designs) is to be complete by October 2020, with Phase 2 deliverables set for November 2020.

Elgin County supports hospice, says no to funding

Elgin County Council made the decision to support the Elgin Hospice Group through non-financial measures but declined to offer financial support for the Elgin Hospice program. Critical to the decision of Council is the harsh reality that the cost of core municipal services continue to experience significant increases. In addition, Elgin County continues to meet its ongoing commitments in the health care environment, including the recent $30M investment in the rehabilitation of Terrace Lodge Long Term Care Home, mandated increases in public health investment and an anticipated increase in funding support to emergency medical services. Council conveyed their support and appreciation for the incredible work of the Elgin Hospice Group and recognized the extremely important role hospice plays in end of life care, offering an interdisciplinary team approach to treatment including expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual care. Elgin County is deeply invested in public health and health care systems including direct, legislated funding and service delivery, as well as indirect efforts to address local gaps in health services. The provincial government has mandated our municipal role in provincial health activities including investment in such legislated services as public health, long-term care and emergency medical services and in the broader context of our fiscal responsibilities in mandated programs and services, it would be difficult to justify using the property tax base to support a non-mandatory health care service.

County Councillors review draft 2020 budget

Financial Services Director Jim Bundschuh presented Elgin County Councillors with a draft budget document for review. The final budget will be presented and voted on at the next meeting of Council held February 11, 2020.

The complete January 28, 2020 County Council Agenda package can be found here.