Riverside to receive funding for operation costs, infrastructure improvements

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

No one wants to think about spending their Christmas holidays in the hospital, but recent funding from the provincial government means that critical healthcare services will be able to continue to provide care to the public and keep an eye on future opportunities.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford was at La Verendrye Hospital on Tuesday morning to reveal a significant amount of funding coming from the Ontario government that will aim to both help staff at Riverside Health Care facilities provide care to those in need, particularly as COVID, flus and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continue to impact emergency rooms across the country. As part of the announcement, Rickford revealed $295,200 would be provided to Riverside for the 2022-2023 fiscal year for pandemic prevention and containment (PPC) costs incurred by ongoing pandemic-related operating expenses from July 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.

“We thought it was important to provide some surge funding for the hospital as they work through what we’ve been going through this fall and will head into for the winter,” Rickford said.

“To that end, without exception, all of our healthcare facilities are receiving the kind of support that they need for sustainability.”

The smaller amounts of funding announced during the day’s event also included two more top ups in the form of one-time payments meant to bolster and reimburse the hospital for expenditures made during this calendar year. Those announcements included $323,351 for the reimbursement of La Verendrye’s COVID-19 incremental operating expenses for the months of April to June 2022, and $68,266 for the reimbursement of health human resources for the same period of time.

While the previous funding was all squarely aimed at helping out the Riverside facility as it continues to deal with COVID and an overloaded flu season, Rickford was also quick to make sure that Riverside would continue to have the opportunity to improve its own facilities, which would in turn open up new doors for improvements to help everyone living in the district.

“I’m pleased to announce we’re investing $874,810 to support critical upgrades and repairs to the Riverside Health Care facilities through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund,” Rickford said.

“These infrastructure funds, as one executive said to me, is the infrastructure that is absolutely vital to the safe workings of a hospital. So the HVAC air filtration pieces, the propane heating systems and different things in different parts of the hospital. We get it, and this is why this announcement is so important, particularly in respect to ventilation.”

The funding provided to Riverside through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund is a portion of the larger $182-million provided by the province this year which is being distributed to 131 hospitals and 65 community health service providers across the country, according to a release from the government. According to that release, the funding will allow health care systems “to address urgent infrastructure renewal needs such as updates or replacements of roofs, windows, security systems, fire alarms and back-up generators.”

At La Verendrye in particular, Riverside noted that the funding would, in part, be going towards renovation work on the hospital’s third floor. Built in 1952 and only updated a few times in the decades since, an information packet provided by Riverside notes that the floor has potential to be used for a variety of programs, including visiting specialists, offices, training rooms, future pharmacy and meeting rooms.

“Installation of some new flooring, lighting ion corridors and other renovations has been completed, and this funding will allow Riverside to complete and expand on the work that has been done,” the statement read.

“The first phase of work will be a significant improvement to the ventilation systems, including replacement of two older air handling units. These upgrades will give us the ability to meet the new ventilation standards which has become vital since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Engineering Department is working on tendering documents as we speak to get the units ordered.”

Due to lingering COVID-19 cases, the rise of a difficult flu season, and high numbers of RSV cases, hospitals could continue to see difficult days ahead before the warmer months return. Compounding difficulties is a general lack of health care providers, something the government has said it plans to tackle through its August 2022 package “A Plan to Stay Open,” which includes intentions to hire and additional 6,000 health care workers while also temporarily covering the cost of examination, application and registration fees for retired and internationally trained nurses. Coming from a healthcare background himself, Rickford extended his thanks to frontline health care workers, stressing that he would continue to advocate on their behalf.

“I know we’re not done yet,” Rickford said.

“Between influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus and some COVID residue, we’re still in fight mode. That can’t be done without frontline workers. Thank you to you folks for the incredible work that you do. You have our backs in this ongoing process, I’m here today to let you know that we will continue to have your backs in a very important way.”