The Progressive Conservative government is injecting some life-saving funding into Scarborough’s Birchmount hospital, the Star has learned.
Amid pressure from the community and from local Tory MPPs worried about losing their seats in the next election, Health Minister Christine Elliott will announce Thursday a redevelopment of the emergency department at the hospital formerly known as the Scarborough Grace.
But Queen’s Park will not overturn the Scarborough Health Network’s decision to move the Birchmount’s maternity ward to Scarborough General, which is 10 km away.
The minister said the emergency department investment is to reassure area residents that the hospital is here to stay.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation out there, quite frankly,” said Elliott.
“This is good news,” she said of the $500,000 for planning a major redevelopment and expansion of the hospital’s emergency department.
The project will eventually see an additional 14,000 square feet at the facility and renovations to 11,000 square feet of existing space.
While the final funding tally for that is still being determined, it’s expected to eclipse $27 million.
Elliott emphasized the government would not meddle in the Scarborough Health Network’s operations regarding where to locate obstetric and pediatric services.
“I stand behind the decision that was made by the administration and the board of the hospital,” she said.
“They’ve done very thorough work in looking at the situation and consulting with external advisers that have been unanimous that these services should be moved.”
That is being done “in the best interest of patient safety,” she added.
In August, the Star revealed that Tory MPPs from Scarborough, North York and Markham have been pleading for an intervention.
Six PC members met with senior aides to Elliott and Premier Doug Ford to urge the government to overrule local health authorities.
“We could lose our seats if this goes through,” one local Tory MPP, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal caucus deliberations, said at the time.
“This is a big problem because the community doesn’t want this to happen.”
Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Ward 22, Scarborough-Agincourt), who has been leading the charge to save the services, had warned “there will be a price to pay” in the 2022 election if the Tories fail to act.
“I’m going to go out of my way to make sure all six ridings are lost,” Karygiannis, a former Liberal MP who insists he’s “now a political atheist,” said in August.
Those threatened seats are currently held by Conservative MPPs Aris Babikian (Scarborough-Agincourt), Raymond Cho (Scarborough North), Logan Kanapathi (Markham-Thornhill), Vincent Ke (Don Valley North), Christina Mitas (Scarborough Centre), and Vijay Thanigasalam (Scarborough-Rouge Park).
Cho, Mitas and Thanigasalam are scheduled to be at Thursday’s announcement while Babikian, whose riding includes the Birchmount, is travelling and cannot attend.
It is not known if Kanapathi or Ke will be on hand.
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Maureen Adamson, chair of the Scarborough Health Network board, said Thursday’s move is “transformative” and will “begin a new chapter in shaping the future of care for Scarborough.”
Local health officials have noted 76 per cent of Birchmount-area women already have their babies elsewhere.
Both in 2006 and in 2013, the previous provincial Liberal government intervened after planned changes to obstetric and pediatric service at Birchmount.