MHC shut out of HIRF funding

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

MANITOULIN—After having received substantial funding through the Ministry of Health under its Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund (HIRF) in each of the past two years, the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) received some bad news last week.

“The bad news is we were shut out of funding this year,” Derek Graham, chief executive officer (CEO) of the MHC, said late last week. “We’ve received at least $406,000 in funding each of the last two years. This year we are receiving no funding under this program.”

Mr. Graham explained HIRF funding is provided specifically for building upkeep and replacement items that wear out or need repairs such as a roof, boilers and air conditioning systems. “What I understand is about two years ago, a team of engineers visited each hospital in the province to do in-depth facility assessments and note the degree of replacement risk at each facility, looking at items that are wearing out and need replacement or repair, pertaining to health and safety concerns.”

“We have a significant amount of items that need to replaced on our list, but the government has set a threshold of what they will support or won’t,” Mr. Graham explained. “It is also my understanding for the Northeast region that funding has been significantly cut this year. What all of this means is that we had a list of items ready to go that needed to be replaced, things that if they were replaced would provide energy savings and efficiencies down the road, and savings in the electrical area. We will now have to look at our business case stringently and what are the priorities’ that need to be replaced with our own funds.”

“The scary part is things obviously continue to age,” said Mr. Graham, who said HRIF, “is a good program that helps in getting priority items that need to replaced or repaired done. If worn out facilities and equipment are not replaced, and down the road hospitals end up having to look at brand new building campaigns.”

Mr. Graham said over the years the MHC can point to some very important examples of things the HRIF funding has benefited.

“For instance, we replaced the heat, and hot water systems for both hospital facilities. The boiler heat exchange provides for significant fuel oil savings of between 30-40 percent part of that year, and a large portion of savings in efficiency of the system itself. And with this down the road will come savings in operations, especially with steadily rising fuel costs.”

“Now, (without the HIRF funding support), we have to make decisions based on our own funding in place and have to look at the risks and benefits of any replacement or maintenance of items, and the cost involved, before we jump in with both feet,” said Mr. Graham.

“I understand the provincial funds are not endless, and the province is currently in a deficit position, but that is why we have done things such as investing wisely with this money to extend the life and efficiencies of our hospital facilities,” said Mr. Graham.

“But what we are facing now we will work through, although it is a shock to be provided $406,000 in funding two years in a row and then this year be down to zero,” continued Mr. Graham. “We were frankly shocked at this news, and we have two sites to look after along with peripheral buildings, which doubles the challenge we are now faced with.”

A number of other hospitals in the province have also been informed they won’t receive funding this year, while others are receiving less than they have previously, said Mr. Graham.

“Losing out on expected funding of $406,000 is huge for a small organization like ours, but we’re resilient and we’re hopefully a strong enough organization to work through all of this,” added Mr. Graham.