Perth Mayor John Fenik would like to see babies once again being born at the Great War Memorial site of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital.
PERTH - Just as he wanted a “made-in-Perth” OPP contract, so too now does Mayor John Fenik want the birth certificates of Perth babies to read “born in Perth.”
In a surprise move in the midst of budget deliberations last Friday morning, Fenik proposed a line item in the budget for $1,000 for him to enter into deliberations with officials at the hospital and possibly facilitate a trip to Toronto to visit officials at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care about the possibility.
“Quite frankly, I feel that people who are having babies should be able to have them in Perth,” said Fenik during budget day deliberations on Friday, Jan. 25. “This is no sleight towards Smiths Falls,” and their maternity ward at their campus of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital, he hastened to add, but for Perth couples welcoming a child, or children, into the world, “their birth certificates should say ‘born in Perth.’ The days of people having a birth certificate saying ‘born in Perth,’ will soon be gone.”
Provincial Health Minister Deb Matthews had been in Ottawa that week announcing the creation of a birthing centre there, and while Fenik did not mention the ongoing debate between the hospital unions and the board of directors about the closing of six hospital beds at each site, he did stress what he saw as the need for investment in the Perth site.
“Our asset, the Perth campus, we have to nurture, and continue to grow it,” said Fenik.
He added that he knew that the possibility of getting any obstetrics or gynecology staff or equipment transferred from Smiths Falls was remote since “that is a cost of millions of dollars,” but he did not rule out having a midwifery-led birthing centre, like the one Matthews opened earlier this month.
Some councillors were intrigued by Fenik’s idea.
“I hadn’t even thought about it until today,” said Coun. Jim Boldt. “I’ve had to have them (my children) in Smiths Falls. I would have been happier if they had been born here.”
Even though he was not born in Perth himself, Boldt stated that many people are proud of where they are born.
“I am proud of being born in Renfrew,” he said, before adding, “Don’t laugh.”
Fenik himself was born in London, Ont., but “my children consider Perth their home, not Smiths Falls.”
However, Coun. Ed McPherson threw cold water on the mayor’s proposal.
“It’ll never happen,” said McPherson. “Health care is being cut to the bone. They will not allow you to bring in a birthing centre. (But) I support your idea of keeping services in Perth.”
Fenik said that he would prove McPherson wrong.
“I love it when somebody says never,” said Fenik. “They have the ability to deliver babies right now. If they have the ability, why not?” he wondered aloud.
McPherson, whose own three children were born in Kingston, conceded that there was indeed birthing equipment in place at the Great War Memorial Hospital site in Perth, but noted that that equipment was only there for emergencies.
“In Ontario, if you have an H on the building (for hospital), you have to have life saving equipment,” said McPherson, which includes birthing equipment, if a women presents herself at the front desk, in the final stages of labour, and is unable to continue on to a hospital with a maternity ward.
While the final budget will be voted on next month, Fenik said that if he was unable to nail down the $1,000 for the deliberations, he would take the money from the mayor’s discretionary fund to finance the discussions.