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September 14, 2023

New Markdale Hospital officially opened as protesters flank the entrance prior to ceremony

Markdale Hospital grand opening ribbon cutting

BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — On September 14, Brightshores Health System (formerly Grey Bruce Health Services) hosted a grand opening of the new Markdale Hospital. Many local dignitaries were on hand, including MPP Rick Byers, Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen and former MPP Bill Walker. But it was Ontario Premier Doug Ford who took the podium first to express thanks to everyone who was involved in the hospital project.

"It takes a community to build a hospital," said Ford. "But it takes advocacy down at Queen's Park to get it done." For this, he personally thanked former MPP Walker as a true leader and key player in the process. He went on to cite numerous recent government investments in hospital infrastructure and brought a message that he would "continue to pour money into health care."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford at the Markdale Hospital grand opening

Ontario Premier Doug Ford takes the podium.

"This is a historical day in our community," said current Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Rick Byers. As donors to the new facility, he and his wife were fortunate to take an earlier tour of the entire building. "It is a magnificent building — state of the art!" he added. He gave large credit to the Centre Grey Health Services Foundation (CGHSF) and local donors for doing a tremendous job of fundraising. "The community has been there from the start and the result is tangible in all of the new equipment."

Foundation Board Chairperson Harvey Fraser was also extremely proud of the community and their efforts. "What a great day it is, from Southgate to Chatsworth," he said. " For close to 20 years, community support has been phenomenal with additional support from the municipality, Brightshores and the Ontario government." Foundation Executive Director Darlene Lamberti recalled that it was a process started long ago by Dr. Hall and ending with today's official opening ceremony. "It is a great example of the community coming together." She added that over $20 million was raised by the CGHSF, accomplishing their original commitment to the project so many years ago.

Brightshores Health System CEO Gary Sims at the Markdale Hospital grand opening

Brightshores Health System CEO Gary Sims said, "It was a great day to see this facility open."

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones, as well as Brightshores President and CEO Gary Sims also heaped praise on the building, its architecture  and the community support that was rallied around its construction.

“Congratulations to the entire Markdale Community, Foundation, staff and all stakeholders who have reached this tremendous milestone,” said Brightshores Health System Board Chair, Jo Flewwelling who concluded the official accolades. “The new Markdale facility positions the community for access to care now and into the foreseeable future.”

No stranger to controversy, Premier Doug Ford, together with his entourage and their appearance at the grand opening drew a disturbance to the ceremony. Prior to the facility's official grand opening, approximately 170 people crowded the highway 10 entrance of the new Markdale Hospital to protest the Ontario government but respectfully remained off of hospital property. "The Premier is destroying thousands of acres of farmland," said protest organizer Dave Meslin who was there to express his disapproval of housing development in the Greenbelt region.

Greenbelt protest in Markdale

Organizers were pleased with the turnout to protest Premier Doug Ford's Greenbelt development. Photo: Dave Meslin

The protest was deliberately silent and peaceful as participants lined the roadside carrying placards and handmade signs, while at the same time expressing deference to the happy occasion of the hospital grand opening occurring that morning.

Norah Beatty, Co-chair of the Grey Bruce Health Care Coalition joined the protest but was also concerned with the alleged privatization of Ontario's health care system. "While there is corruption in the whole Greenbelt issue, I'm sure the other shoe is about to drop in the privatization of our health care," she exclaimed.

Mike Marcolongo, coordinator for the Greenbelt Promise Campaign, a network of grassroots organizations working together to stop development in the Greenbelt, cited perceived collusion with developers in the categories of health care, education and the environment as the reason for expressing himself on this occasion.

David Walton, a volunteer from Owen Sound came prepared with a petition of several hundred signatures, demanding to stop development in the Greenbelt, which he expected to present to MPP Rick Byers on Friday.

Dr. Erica Ferguson protests at the Markdale Hospital grand opening

Doctor Erica Ferguson, a local physician at the Flesherton Family Practice brought the two worlds of protest and celebration together when she donned a t-shirt to the indoor event expressing her own displeasure with Premier Ford's Greenbelt development strategy.

Brightshores Health System will host another ceremony — a Come and Go for the greater public on the grounds of the new hospital facility September 15 from 11-2 pm. All are welcome. The lobby entrance will be open with limited access into the new facility as staff are in the process of cleaning and making final preparations for receiving the first patients on September 24. Treats at the Come and Go will be provided by Chapman's Ice Cream.


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