Brant wants study of Willett

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor

PARIS – County council wants the Brant Community Health Care System to begin a study about the future of the Willett Urgent Care Centre and its associated community health services.
With sharp comments, Mayor Ron Eddy and councillors lined up Tuesday to express their support for a report from CAO Paul Emerson and Deputy-CAO Michael Bradley that calls for the BCHS to get moving on a much-needed report so the community can know the future of the venerable health-care facility, and get out from under a cloud.
Emerson noted that the county has received a request from the Brant Community Health Hub Task Force for additional support for its proposed Community Health Hub project. The problem, Emerson says, is that the BCHS has not yet completed a study and analysis about the Willett’s future so council is left up in the air.
Acting from the report, council wants the following from the BCHS:
. An analysis with recommendations of the core health-care services that should continue to be delivered in the county;
. An analysis of future expansion of core health-care services that will be required in the county given its population growth and demographic changes;
. Applicable metrics, including the size of facility to support the newly configured core health care services;
. And a recommendation on the reuse, repurposing or disposal of the Willett, including the use of any funds raised from selling the property.
Council also wants to have input into the study and to receive regular updates on its progress.
Eddy said it’s important to get the message to the health-care system that the area needs answers and action, after a report from investigator, Dr. Tim Rutledge detailed problems the BCHS has in delivering services at Brantford General Hospital and the Willett.
“We need to acquaint ourselves with the state of our local health-care system,” he added.
“The report is very strong in condemning the care we’ve been getting.”
Coun. Don Cardy said he doesn’t like the fact that progress is stymied because the required analysis on the Willett’s future is not finished.
“The Willett should not be last on the list to be looked at,” he said.
“It’s very important that they understand we care about our health care in Brant.”
Brant MPP Dave Levac urged councillors to be patient and wait for the analytical report.
“These things take time because they are going to do it right,” he said.
“The planning is still taking place. The proposal is not complete, but it will be done. Let it all play out and we will have a superior health-care system in the end.”
The Willett was created as the town’s hospital in the 1920s by a generous community bequest. It eventually and merged with Brantford General Hospital to form the BCHS, with the Willett turned into an urgent care centre.
A 2016 consultant’s report recommended that the BCHS consider closing the Willett and selling the property due to the facility’s inadequate physical plant and high operating costs.
They also noted that report further recommended that a business plan study be undertaken to analyze the impact of the closure of the Willett on patients and the community. Shortly after that, Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-term Care, ordered an investigation into the BCHS and appointed Rutledge.
“While it is clear that the current status of the Willett ambulatory care site is not sustainable, a recommendation on the optimal strategy for the future of the facility is beyond the scope of this investigation,” Rutledge wrote in his report.
“A thorough assessment of the options is required.”
A task force formed in late 2016 to examine options to provide health care to the Paris area. After consulting with stakeholders for several months, the task force determined that a community health hub could be developed in the Paris area.
The task force also asked for the county’s support to incorporate as a not-for-profit organization. That would include appointing directors to its board and providing legal support. And the task force has asked that the county provide financial support.
County staff have looked at the matter and suggest some services the hub could provide in a common facility, if only there was a clear picture of the future.
“Staff are suggesting that the activities and recommendations of the task force, while well-meaning and with the best interests of the community in mind, are premature at this point,” said Emerson, because the BCHS has not completed its analysis.