Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Areas for New Southern Hospital

You will recall that in early May, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS.

Among the 23 recommendations, Dr. Smith suggested that the Province should construct a new general acute care hospital as well as a free standing Urgent Care Centre in "South Niagara" and close the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

He asked the "Mayors of the 'Southern Tier' with input from the Regional Chair" to come to a unanimous recommendation for the locations for the new Hospital and the stand-alone Urgent Care Centre by June 15.

The six southern mayors – Mayor Vance Badawey, Port Colborne; Mayor Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls; Mayor April Jeffs, Wainfleet; Mayor Doug Martin, Fort Erie; Mayor Barry Sharpe, Welland; and myself -- and Regional Chair Gary Burroughs met five times. Regional GIS staff provided objective data and analysis mapping relating to population density, EMS call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, and NHS referrals and ER usage.  We made use of the best information we had during the short time we were given.

A unanimous decision was reached, and Chair Burroughs announced the results during our Regional Council meeting on June 14.

We recommended two geographic areas (about 4 square kilometres each) for the new "Southern" hospital -- generally described as the QEW and Lyons Creek area, and the East Main Street and Highway 140 area. These two areas are separated only by approximately 8 km -- about the same distance as between Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s downtowns.

We also recommended that Urgent Care Centres in Port Colborne and Fort Erie continue to operate.

What other sites did we examine and why didn't we recommend them? After reviewing some preliminary data, the six Mayors and Chair short-listed to six potential sites or areas.  We reviewed each site, based on our criteria -- EMS call volumes, municipal servicing, drive-times, population densities -- and found the four other sites deficient in relation to the two recommended areas. 


  • Highway 406 and Regional Road 20:  No water or sewer servicing and expensive to install; too distant for historic EMS call volumes, especially in relation to ambulance return times; too much overlap with coverage of new Northern Hospital;
  • Netherby and Montrose Roads: Great coverage of population and drive times to location; however, but no water or sewer servicing and very expensive to install; too distant from historic EMS call volumes, especially in relation to ambulance return times;
  • Existing Niagara Falls Hospital Site: Very poor coverage for entire Southern portion of Niagara; no room for a new build;
  • Existing Welland Hospital Site: Poor coverage for entire Southern portion of Niagara; not enough room for a new build; Dr. Smith ruled-out this site when suggested by Welland City Council.

Why didn’t the six Mayors and Chair recommend just one site / location as was requested?  We did this for two main reasons:

  • First, we acknowledge that any siting for a new hospital will be subject to detailed consideration by the Niagara Health System, the Local Health Integration Network, and the Provincial government. Inevitably, the Health Ministry will have additional siting criteria about which we are not aware of nor privy to.
  • Second, since a new Southern hospital will have a life of at least 50 to 75 years, we also called for a thorough and respectful public consultation about the two locations.

Finally, I spoke to Dr. Smith directly about the impact these two sites may have for Pelham residents. If the Province builds a new hospital near Highway 140 and East Main Street, one could expect that roughly the same proportion of Pelham residents that currently use the Welland site would use the new facility (approximately 70%). If, however, a new facility is built near Lyon's Creek and the QEW, it seems likely that nearly all Pelham residents will travel to the new Northern hospital.  Dr. Smith acknowledged the NHS will continue to welcome Pelham residents at any NHS site, now and into the future.

I am very interested in hearing from you about the two sites; please email me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca. You can also email Dr. Smith directly with your thoughts at nhssupervisor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pelham Changing through the Years

You may recall that my last column was about the demographics of Pelham -- that is, the study of human population for our Town.

You see, Statistics Canada recently released new information from the 2011 Census. And, since they also provide information for communities from the 2006, 2001 and 1996 Census, one can compare the make-up and growth of our population over a fifteen-year period.

As you may know, Pelham is the fastest growing municipality in the Region. Since our formation in 1970, we have grown from 9,855 to 16,598 in 2011.  That’s a 68.4% increase! The next largest increases are West Lincoln at 68.1%, Grimsby at 67%, Lincoln at 65%; the entire Region’s population grew by only 28% during that period.

During the last 15 years, Pelham’s population grew from 14,345 in 1996, to 15,275 in 2001, to 16,155 in 2006, and to 16,598 in 2011.

But, the story becomes more interesting when one looks at age groups.

For example, our Town's population of children (aged 14 and younger) declined in raw numbers over the last 15 years – from 2,920 in 1996 to 2,535 in 2011. This was a 13% decrease! It’s no surprise, therefore, that the proportion of children to the total population also dropped 5% from 20% of our Town in 1996 to 15% in 2011. According to a 2008 Regional report, the proportion of children across the Region is expected to decline from 16.4% in 2006 to 14.3% in 2031.

What about our seniors -- those aged 65 and older?  In 1996 there were 1,925 seniors in Pelham; in 2011 Statistics Canada counted 3,450. That's a 79% increase!  Seniors now make up 21% of our population, up from 13% in 1996. Across the Region, the proportion of seniors is expected to increase from 17% in 2006 to 27% in 2031.

Statistics Canada provides some very broad categories for comparison over the last decade-and-a-half.  For example, Pelham's population aged zero to 24 declined 4% from 4,820 in 1996 to 4,635 in 2011.  Our population aged 25 to 54 (the "working-age" population) declined more than 6% from 6,095 in 1996 to 5,715 in 2011.

So, broadly speaking, where was the majority of our growth concentrated?  Those 55-and-older grew a phenomenal 82% from 3,400 in 1996 to 6,255 in 2011!

(It is important to note that any demographic changes result from both new residents moving here, others moving away, and from the aging of current residents.)

While one must be cautious about broad comparisons from relatively small sub-sets of our population, these numbers appear to show a trend. As your Mayor, I continue to consider what these demographic realities mean for our current and future public services.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Boom, Bust & Echo” in Pelham and Niagara

Do you remember the book entitled "Boom, Bust & Echo" that was popular in the late 1990s? I pulled it off my shelf last week as Statistics Canada released new population data for all communities, including Pelham, from the 2011 Census.

The book, by David K. Foot and Daniel Stoffman, theorized that demographics – the study of population – explained "about two-thirds of everything." They wrote that demographics describes "which products will be in demand, where job opportunities will occur, what school enrolments will be, when house values will rise or drop, what kinds of food people will buy and what kinds of cars they will drive."

Looking at Canadian demographic data, the book groups the population into "cohorts" and names them. For example, you have likely heard of the most famous and largest of cohorts – the "Baby Boomers" – born from 1947 to 1966.

So I took the Statistics Canada data and compared our population in Pelham with the rest of the Niagara Region (excluding Pelham).  It reveals some interesting facts.

In terms of population distribution, the data clearly identifies the presence of "Baby Boomers" – those 45 to 64 (in 2011) – in Pelham and in the rest of Niagara.  If you are one of them, you made up 33% of Pelham’s population, compared to 30% in the rest of Niagara in 2011.

The next group – the Baby Bust – born from 1967 to 1979 would have been 32 to 44 years old in 2011.  This group made up just more than 13% in Pelham and 15% of the rest of Niagara.

Do you too find these differences between Pelham and the Region fascinating?

The Echo group – the children of the Baby Boomers – is another large cohort with additional differences. If you were between 16 and 31 years old in 2011, you were one of more than 16% in Pelham and 19% in Niagara.

The next group of children – referred to as the "Millennium Kids" and aged from zero to 15 years old in 2011 – formed nearly 17% of the population.

Those of other cohorts include the "Roaring Twenties" (aged from 82 to 91 in 2011 and roughly 4% of the population), the "Depression Babies" (from 72 to 81 in 2011 and approximately 8%), and "World War II Babies" (65 to 71 in 2011 and just over 8%).

Perhaps you, like me, wonder what this means to the future of our Town and our Region.  As your Mayor, I will continue to consider what this demographic reality means in terms of current and future public services and facilities.

I plan to write more about Pelham’s demographics in a future column.

(To see what these numbers looked like from last Census, please check out one of my columns from four years ago.)