At this week’s City Council meeting, Council voted to approve $6.5 million towards a new fundraising campaign by the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF). This campaign is directed toward new state-of-the-art equipment and facilities like an expanded neo-natal intensive care unit and modernized operating rooms. Over the next five years the City will contribute $1.3 million per year, less than the $1.6 million annual funding the city has provided UHKF since 2008.
The important question Council had to grapple with on this issue is – why does the local government need to fund health care in our city, when health care is supposed to be a provincial responsibility.
The answer comes down to the funding model. In order to qualify for funding to make improvements to hospital facilities, 10% of the construction costs must first be raised locally. Once that happens, the province will put up the remaining 90% of the required money. Those are the rules of the game, and so if the required dollars can’t be raised locally, the provincial dollars will go to hospital upgrades elsewhere in the province.
Building a smart and livable city means we need state-of-the-art hospitals here in Kingston. Our community should have the best possible health care available, not only to serve our residents, but also to attract new research and business opportunities in the health care sector.
This is a big financial ask and was a difficult decision for council. It was difficult because we need to live within our means as a city, and so we only have so many municipal tax dollars to go around. But in this case, $6.5 million from the city will unlock an additional $500 million in provincial dollars, enhance the facilities and equipment to deliver the best care possible and help to attract talent and research in healthcare. In my view, this is an offer too good to refuse.