Dispelling rumours:

The CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc. tried to set the record straight yesterday on what’s happening with the renovation project planned for the Emo hospital.
Speaking at a “communications” luncheon at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre attended by reps from the municipalities and unorganized townships in the Emo hospital’s service area, Wayne Woods stressed Riverside has no definite numbers yet.
But the latest estimates puts the local share for fixing up both the main floor and basement of the hospital at about $600,000–with $265,608 already in the bank for the project between Riverside and the Riverside Foundation for Health Care.
“We are engaging what the architects call a quantity surveyor, who is going to look at the hospital drawings so we can get a firm number,” Woods said.
“So when we go out to tender in February or March, we know what the contractors should come back with,” he explained.
Upgrading the main floor of the Emo hospital is expected to cost $2.4 million. Woods said an application already has been sent into the Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corp. to help cover the costs of renovating the basement, which is likely to cost $600,000.
“Anyone who’s been in the hospital knows the basement needs extreme work done,” he noted.
Kim Jo Calder, representing an unorganized township north of Emo, asked if Woods had heard anything definite from the province if the NOHFC funding would come through.
“We got a call yesterday that we are in the hopper,” Woods replied. “If you asked if I had a comfortable factor with the funding, I’d say I’m about 90 percent certain.”
The plan right now is to have a shovel in the ground in May or June, Woods said, with the work to take anywhere from 10-12 months to complete.
Since the hospital can’t be shut down, construction will be done in phases to best accommodate the long-term patients housed there.
“This will be in our consulting process in the next two or three weeks on just how we are going to do the phasing process,” Woods said. “The hospital will be there. Just what they’ll be operating with, we don’t know at this point.”
The green light for Emo hospital’s renovations was given at the same time La Verendrye hospital in Fort Frances got the go-ahead to build its new surgical suites.
Foundation chairman Clare Brunetta, who also was on hand for the luncheon, noted they plan to launch a major fundraising campaign early in January to address the needs of both hospitals at once.
“We wanted to make sure the mood of the district is right to do this,” he said, noting the Foundation conducted a survey before making its fundraising plans.
“The levels of support that came back for the two projects were outstanding,” he added, citing a 90 percent approval rate.
Brunetta said a capital campaign committee will be set up, likely with two chairs representing both the Emo and Fort Frances areas. From there, sub-committees will be formed to canvass national programs and foundations, health care employees, and then local businesses and philanthropists.
Once that’s done, then a general appeal will be made to the public, he said.
“We want to get it done and we want to get it done quickly,” Brunetta stressed, noting the Foundation hopes to raise the roughly $2 million needed to cover the local share of both projects–regardless of how much money already is in the bank.
“We’d like to raise all the money needed, not only to do these renovations [but] to equip them,” he said. “When it’s over, we’d like to have some money in the bank.”
Brunetta said people making donations were welcome to designate which project they want their money to go towards. But he stressed the Foundation was approaching the fundraiser as one big district campaign for both hospitals–not one over the other.
“Once we hit our goal in Emo [or Fort Frances], I want to be able to roll money over,” he remarked. “It’s going to be one pot. We’re going to fund everything.”
The luncheon was sponsored by Voyageur Panel. Mill manager Percy Champagne said the main idea behind it was to promote better relations between the district and Riverside.
“The big hurdle [when I first came here] was people believed we actually had plans to close the Emo hospital,” Champagne said. “Most people living in the district didn’t see the benefit of having all three hospitals under one umbrella, one CEO.”
“We’re split across the district all the time,” echoed Champagne’s wife, Jackie. “We need to say this is what Riverside Health Care Facilities needs.”
Emo Coun. Cecil Ogden, also a member of Riverside’s board of directors, said the information at yesterday’s meeting was exactly what people in the district needed to hear.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” he remarked. “This information [Woods] put out is very valuable.”
“It sounds to me, for the first time in a long time, we’ll be able to work together,” echoed Chapple clerk Doris Dyson. “I think [the Foundation] has come a long way in the last couple of years.”