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Brampton hospital fuelling hot debate
September 13, 2003

 

FRANK CALLEJA

TORONTO STAR
STAFF REPORTER

There's a strong election pulse beating on the street in the Brampton Centre riding, but before voters pick a government Oct. 2, Judy Hughes figures to pump it up on the issue of a new city hospital.

That's why Hughes, a retired teacher, and others with the Brampton Health Coalition, are distributing 500 lawn signs to show their opposition to the Tory government's plan to enter into a private-public partnership (known as P3) to build a $400 million, 608-bed hospital to open in 2006.

"P3 in Brampton is a done deal ... but voters have to know that this is a crucial step in the process of hammering privatized health care on the citizens of Ontario. That's the message we want voters to get during this campaign," Hughes said.

The funding model for the city's much-needed second hospital, the role of its existing William Osler Health Centre, and the construction of the Highway 410 extension to Highway 10 to relieve gridlock, are front and centre in the election rhetoric of the three main candidates.

Joe Spina, 57, the incumbent Progressive Conservative, Liberal Linda Jeffrey, 45, an experienced Ward 2 Brampton city councillor, and New Democrat Kathy Pounder, 54, a well-known community activist and first-time candidate who has been prominent in the anti-P3 battle, will go to the people on these issues.

"The reality is that this (the new Brampton hospital) is not a privately run hospital. This is a public hospital and the opposition's expression that you are going to need a VISA card rather than an OHIP card is simply a lie," Spina said.

Jeffrey said she supports a publicly funded health care system and the Tories are pushing the P3 funding model for hospitals even though "evidence shows that such ventures cost taxpayers more while providing a lower quality of service."

Pounder said the move to a P3 model in Brampton "is a major change in policy towards privatization of health care."

"The truth of the matter is that we've lost hospital beds under the Tory government. As of March 1996 we had 326 acute care beds in Peel. In the fall of 2002 there were 269 acute care beds even though the city's population increased by 80,000 new residents since 1996."

The extension of Highway 410, from Bovaird Dr., where it now ends, north into Caledon and west to Highway 10, has been "a litany of procrastination and lack of foresight by the Harris-Eves government," Jeffries said.

Pounder said the province is waffling on the extension "while the city chokes on its own traffic."

But Spina said the extension must be opened in phases because Brampton has failed to plan properly for its burgeoning population by installing the needed infrastructure before approving large-scale residential development.

Sanjeev Goel is the Green Party of Ontario's candidate in the riding.