BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF –
Jim Harrold, Health Care Consultant and former Artemesia Township Reeve, summed up the decision that was brought before Grey County Council like this, "It's a choice between two reports. One prepared by long term care professionals and one prepared by (Grey County) staff."
Harrold moderated a public forum on long term care (LTC) held at the Centre Grey Complex in Markdale Tuesday night. He was talking about the recent decision made by the Grey County Committee of the Whole recommending the sale of Grey Gables to private interests. His words were met with strong resolve by the approximate 150 people in attendance, to continue the fight to save the Class A facility from ending up on the real estate market.
As it stands, Grey County Council will vote to ratify the recommendation on Thursday, June 29 after seven councillors walked out of the June 8 proceedings, leaving council without a quorum thus deferring the decision by two weeks.
Many people rose to speak at the forum and gave several reasons why Grey Gables should remain a government owned facility. Grey Highlands councillors were in attendance as well as several delegates representing other local municipalities, former Wardens, stakeholders and concerned residents.
Southgate Mayor Anna-Marie Fosbrooke pointed to a 2013 Grey County LTC task force report admonishing the County for having fewer beds than any other region in Ontario while at the same time facing an expected increase in senior population. The report, apparently shelved until now, recommended no divestment of LTC assets. She also voiced her concern over the lack of a long term financial plan and not enough information provided to council thus far in order to make a proper decision.
Grey Highlands Councillor Terry Mokriy stressed the government's responsibility to equity for all Ontarians and a need to provide access to geographically based services and facilities that are affordable and not privately owned.
Blue Mountains Deputy Mayor Gail Ardiel spoke of the Grey County Council mandate to fairly represent all of the region and that with the sale of Grey Gables, there would be a lack of representation in five out of seven Grey County municipalities.
"It's not a common sense approach," said Chatsworth Deputy Mayor Scott Mackey, who hoped other Grey County councillors would "have the courage to stand up and say they made a mistake."
Local resident, Michelle Patey called out the decision for its lack of foresight as population growth is trending along the Highway 10 corridor from Shelburne to Owen Sound. Her desire is that Grey County be home to a state-of-the-art health care hub located at the Grey Gables property linking the proposed new hospital to an expanded LTC facility. According to the alternate plan she unfolded, a new facility would also be built on the Rockwood Terrace property in Durham.
Fairness and equity were two themes repeated throughout the evening as Harrold reviewed his notes adding sticky note after sticky note to the wall behind him.
Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen summed up the evening by saying that a 6-month deferral of the decision to sell Grey Gables would be the desired result of Thursday's Grey County Council vote. That would provide enough time to create a professionally crafted LTC report taking all options into consideration, providing detail to the plans proposed including cost and benefit analyses.
In order to achieve this, proponents of the status quo will be relying on procedural technicality hold-ups or a change of heart for one or more council members. If the vote is ratified on Thursday, saving Grey Gables from privatization will be a steeper uphill battle but one on which stakeholders refuse to give up.
"Time will tell," said McQueen when asked if he got enough out of the forum to get him closer to the desired result. "We've got to do anything and everything."
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