A complicated story

I’m going to ask you to do something a bit hard: to recognize that in an argument, both parties can be wrong.

This week, some community members started organizing against the supportive housing LOFT announced on Church Street. They put flyers on street posts and in mailboxes (including my own).

The flyers said that “crime, drugs, theft, property damage, low income, [and] prostitution” are problems in the community—and that “the former Humber River Regional hospital is turning 5 houses on Church St. into rooming/halfway houses for profit”.

As far as I can tell, little of that is accurate. They’re not going to be “rooming” (for profit) or “halfway houses” (for former criminals). They are “supportive housing for outgoing patients facing mental health challenges”, according to Debora Jesus, from LOFT.

Nor are they likely for profit. They are owned by the hospital, and LOFT is a charity, not a business. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems impossible. (And I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Weston has a large problem with petty crime. I don’t think so.)

But LOFT and the HRH don’t come out of this blameless.

I don’t think they did enough consultation, or sought opinions from far enough around the community.

I’m far from a good barometer, but I do try to keep attuned to what’s going on in Weston. I didn’t hear about LOFT’s “information session” (notably, not a consultation) until after it had passed.

I wasn’t the only one. Several members of the Weston Village Neighbours group didn’t know about it, and MPP Faisal Hassan wrote a letter to the CEO of LOFT saying he would have hoped to have been included. He wasn’t.

He also wrote “I … urge you to have broad community consultations and to involve local residents and elected officials such as myself.”

LOFT, for their part, says that they met with the WVRA and Frances Nunziata, and circulated flyers in a 3-block radius.

They also say, however, that “there are no further in-person meetings planned”.

This sort of stuff isn’t rocket science. I’m in favour of supportive housing, but LOFT should have known—or been told—that Weston gets quite enough “information” and not enough consultation from developers, Metrolinx, and, yes, the Humber River Regional Hospital. (Which announced years ago that they would be selling the property until, whoops, community members told them that they legally couldn’t.)

Time to get mad

If you’re not yet mad at the slow pace of vaccinations, an article in The Star today will get you going. And if you are already mad, you’ll be furious—as I am.

Most of the seniors at Central King Seniors Residence across from the Weston Library hadn’t received their vaccinations, even though they’ve been eligible for weeks. Why?

Most of them don’t use the internet and aren’t able to book an appointment on their own. Many have significant mobility issues and none of the vaccination sites are nearby. Some can’t afford transportation. Others worry about waiting in long lines.

“They have been left behind,” Oka says. “Not intentionally,” she adds. “But still.”

….

She knew the most effective way to get her residents vaccinated was if the vaccine came to them. So she sent requests to every level of government, making her case in detailed emails.

Eventually she heard back from her MPP, Faisal Hassan, who, in collaboration with Humber River Hospital, arranged for a pop-up clinic at the building last week.

God bless Bardha Oka. Give her an award, the key to the town. Name a street after her. She probably saved many lives.

But see, too, that this is no way to run a vaccination plan. Why should one person be responsible? And why should she have to fight to get it done? This is insane. And how many more seniors’ residences are out there with less empowered staff than Bardha Oka?

COVID testing is not working out well at the Church Street site

The CBC says that some people getting tested at the recently-opened Church Street COVID testing centre are having to wait more than two weeks to get their results.

“What’s the whole point of going in for tests if you don’t even get the results until after the quarantine time? There’s no point. It defeats the whole purpose,” she said.

Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP for York South-Weston, says he received more than 25 complaints in a week about people waiting for test results from the Church Street assessment centre.

He says residents were concerned that without a result, they couldn’t return to work, go to school, or visit and provide essential care to loved ones in long-term care homes.

“We have been [identified] as a hotspot area and these delays are totally unacceptable,” he said.

The hospital told the CBC that their typical turnaround is three to five days.

In addition to the burdens they place on those being tested, long turnarounds make contact tracing impossible.

Local hospital ahead of the curve.

Humber River Hospital (CNW Group/Humber River Hospital) From Wikipedia.

If you saw this pandemic coming in January or even February, you’re not alone. Many Canadians watched in dismay while various politicians and their medical officers of health basically twiddled around. We were also told that face masks were ineffective but that’s another story.

There’s a Toronto company called Blue Dot and they analyze masses of data using artificial intelligence. Blue Dot was able to predict the spread of Zika along with other diseases using huge amounts of data that is mostly publicly available. They analyze this data and present conclusions to clients who can then plan accordingly. Blue Dot saw the Covid-19 pandemic coming as early as December and knew where and how it would spread from Wuhan long before any of our local experts or politicians did. The CBS show 60 Minutes covered Humber River Hospital’s use of Blue Dot’s services and it’s quite impressive to see what the application of artificial intelligence can do during a pandemic.

Let’s hope that some intelligent thinking and data usage will be used to guide lifting of the lockdown so that Canada can successfully emerge from its current medically induced coma.

What’s up at Church Street Hospital?

Way back in 2018, I was asked what was up at the Church Street site of the  Humber River Hospital (and I never did find out). An answer has come to light thanks to some readers and Frances Nunziata’s circular: It’s a “Reactivation Care Centre”—an off-ramp for acute-care hospital patients, who “no longer need acute care services, but often find themselves waiting for an alternate care facility, such as convalescent and long-term care.”

Photo from Sunnybrook

Our RCC is the second in the province, preceded by the Finch Avenue site that was also part of the Humber River Regional Hospital group.

According to Nunziata’s circular, things are still getting started at our location, and at present, there are 94 beds. An additional 120 will be opened in March.

The Church Street site will alleviate pressure at local acute-care hospitals that are part of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Sunnybrook, for example,  typically has “an occupancy rate of over 100 per cent”; sending patients to the Church RCC will free up beds needed urgently, and give patients specialized restorative care.

So it’s a win-win.

It’s also great news for Weston.

When the Church Street site was closed, many residents were concerned that it would be sold to developers, and that a high-density development would be built in a low-density neighbourhood. There were also concerns we would be missing the chance to develop a public good, like a college, seniors’ home, childcare, or park.

Plans to sell the property were thwarted, at least at first, by an odd legal artifact: 70 years ago, the Trimbee family sold the land to the Town of Weston with the condition that it would be used only for a hospital. The city sought to vacate that condition.

Could the Weston hospital re-open?

The province will likely reopen the Jane and Finch branch of the Humber River Regional Hospital, according to to Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health. It may be used to ease a capacity crunch in pre-longterm care. Perhaps the Church Street site could be also be reopened.

Both the Jane and Finch and Church Street sites were closed in 2015. The HRRHs’ services were consolidated at the new Wilson and Keele site.

The Church site, which  Hoskins did not mention in his speech at Queen’s Park, remains unsold as lawyers work through a thorny issue: the Trimbee family gave away a chunk of land the building sits on with a condition: its ownership would revert to the Town of Weston if it were no longer used as a hospital.

Re-opening the Church site may be a long shot, but the province could use as many as 3000 beds for people too ill or too frail to go home but who are not suited to the acute care provided at a hospital. The Finch site has only 150. In a spirited exchange at Queen’s Park, Hoskins said

since day one of that new hospital opening, we have been looking at this as a positive opportunity to free up capacity in a number of hospitals, not just Humber River. There are a number of hospitals in Toronto and the GTA that are contributing to this plan.

 

Keele St HRRH site too dense

I think it’s worth paying attention to what is happening at the former Humber River Hospital site on Keele; it presages what we can expect at the former Church Street site when it, too, goes up for sale and development.

In short: gird your loins. It’s going to be a battle.

InsideToronto reports on the new community being developed. Despite it not having any high-rises, community members are upset.

Of the site’s total 14 acres, four and a half of those would be dedicated to open, natural areas, yet one resident likened the proposal to “cramming 731 units into a shoebox.”