Funding announced for Riverside Health Care

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford made the most of a rainy day last week as he made a stop in Fort Frances to announce incoming funding for health care in the region.

As part of a $1.2-billion investment announced by the Government of Ontario to assist hospitals in the province recover from new and worsening financial difficulties, as well as historic working fund deficits brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rickford announced that Riverside Health Care would be receiving more than $5.5-million in funding. According to a press release accompanying the announcement, the money “will help cover historic working funds deficits of qualifying hospitals focusing on small, medium as well as specialty and rehabilitation hospitals” in Ontario. the release also states that “a working funds deficit occurs when an organization’s current liabilities exceed their current assets.” All hospitals that had such a deficit in 2019-20 qualified for this funding.

“Today’s funding announcement helps in two key ways,” Rickford said.

“First it’s going to mitigate the financial pressures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m sure [Riverside CEO Henry Gauthier] can explain that a little better for us, and second of course, the other story that doesn’t get told is that increased demands on the hospital lead to increased wear and tear on the facility’s physical infrastructure; the bones, if you will. We want to make sure our levels of care are left to the highest standard.”

To help accomplish this, Rickford also announced a second funding envelope at the event, noting that Riverside Health Care will also be receiving $148,664 from the government of Ontario this year to support health care by providing funds for infrastructure upgrades, repair and maintenance. This second stream of funding comes from the province’s $175-million Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund (HIRF) which is aimed at helping hospitals across Ontario address urgent infrastructure renewal needs. Examples the funds can be put towards include the upgrade or replacement of roofs, windows, security systems, fire alarms or backup generators. While the number might not seem impressive next to the aforementioned $5.5-million, Rickford stressed it’s important funding that has some flexibility to how it can be used.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford, centre, joined with Riverside Health Care CEO Henry Gauthier, left, Riverside Health Care board of directors vice-chair Jon Begg, right, to announce significant funding coming from the Ontario government for health care infrastructure in the region. –Ken Kellar photo

“We’ve been here before, some folks might say ‘well, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money,'” Rickford said.

“But again, this is a nuanced funding program that helps with things like HVACs and ventilation, sterilization, the pressing needs of the day for the hospital.”

Riverside Health Care CEO Henry Gauthier spoke following Rickford’s announcement, noting most of the funding from the HIRF would be put towards upgrades to the handling system in the sterile processing department.

“That ensures the equipment and instruments that are used in the emergency department, as well as the surgical suites, are kept clean and ensure that we’re providing safe systems for the patients at La Verendrye General Hospital,” Gauthier explained.

“The second fund of almost $5.56-million from the working funds deficit funding, what this does is allow us to continue to focus our energy on managing the pandemic and ensuring the safety of the residents of the Rainy River District.”

Gauthier also extended his thanks to the staff, physicians and board of directors of Riverside Health Care for remaining “committed during this very difficult time over the last year and a half.”

Riverside Health Care board of directors vice-chair Jon Begg also spoke during the announcement, thanking Rickford for the announced funding, and echoing Gauthier’s remarks on the value of the staff and doctors of the Riverside Health Care facilities. 

“On behalf of the board I would like to draw attention not only to the importance of today’s financial announcement, but to something equally, if not more important; our staff and our physicians,” Begg said.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s cleaning professionals, physicians, nurses, personal support workers, clinical staff or administration. Everyone has been working so very hard. Whether it’s back-to-back double shifts or being stuck behind a computer working late into the evening or on weekends, our people are committed to this organization at the highest level.”

Begg also directed praise to the staff at Rainycrest, sharing that over 90 percent of residents there expressed they are “happy with the quality of care” during the organization’s most recent patient satisfaction survey.

“This comes during the pandemic, with a shortage in many staff areas,” Begg noted.

The Ontario government has also pledged billions of dollars in health care in the coming years, with an announced $324-million surgical recovery plan, $175-million through the HIRF and more than $22-billion in capital grants over the next 10 years for health infrastructure projects across the province.