The mayor of Whitby, Ont., called on the province Wednesday to make good on a promise to build a new regional hospital in the town.
Elizabeth Roy told reporters that a new acute care hospital is needed in Durham Region, east of Toronto, because the existing hospital system cannot keep up with demand and the region is growing. She said its population is expected to be more than one million in less than 20 years.
In recent months, she said residents have experienced overcrowded emergency rooms and excessively long wait times. Some patients have waited up to three days to be admitted to hospital, she added.
"The pressures today are worse than during the pandemic," Roy said at a news conference.
Roy said the town has launched a new advocacy campaign for the hospital in the form of a website that urges residents to write directly about the issue to Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
An independent panel set up by Lakeridge Health, a Durham Region hospital network, selected land in Whitby as the preferred site for a new hospital two years ago. The land is owned by the Ontario transportation ministry.
After the site was announced, Lakeridge Health requested $3 million from the Ontario health ministry as a capital planning grant for the facility, but the money has not been provided. The land disposition process has also not started, she said.
"Two years is too long, especially when it takes 10 years to build a new hospital," Roy said.
Hospital needed with more homes in works: mayor
According to Lakeridge Health, the preferred site for the new hospital is in north Whitby, south of Highway 407, west of Highway 412, east of Lake Ridge Road and north of Highway 7/Winchester Road.
On its website, the network says it runs five hospitals, four emergency departments and three critical care units, as well as community locations, a long-term care home and a surgical centre.
Roy said the region can't afford any more delays. She said the town has committed to building 18,000 new homes in Whitby by 2031, as part of the provincial plan to build homes in Ontario. More health care infrastructure is needed to support the growth, she said.
She added that the government first recommended a new acute care hospital for the region in 2015.
'Our current hospitals are at or overcapacity and we have significant growth coming,' said Sarah Klein, director of strategic initiatives for the Town of Whitby. (CBC)
Sarah Klein, director of strategic initiatives for the Town of Whitby and a member of its hospital task force, agreed.
"Our current hospitals are at, or over, capacity and we have significant growth coming. It is extremely important for the quality of life for our residents to address the current need and the growing demand," she said.
Klein said she is hopeful the province will respond to the town's call for immediate action.
In a statement on Wednesday, a health ministry spokesperson said it recognizes that Whitby was recommended through community consultation as the preferred site of a new Lakeridge hospital.
"We will continue to work closely with Lakeridge Health and other partners on the next round of planning grants for this project to deliver more connected, convenient care in the Durham Region," the statement reads.