Tori SuttonStaff ReporterThe Stratford General Hospital got a shot in the arm last Friday when MPP John Wilkinson announced a $425,300 funding increase to the hospital's base budget.The funding will be used to create a new bed in the hospital's intensive care unit.With the $65-million hospital redevelopment project in full swing, Wilkinson said it is essential to look beyond bricks and mortar."There's no use building it unless we have the operating funds to run it," he said, adding it is important to increase the budget as the hospital takes on more capacity."The best care you can get is as close to home as possible and that's what's driving our tremendous and historic reinvestment in rural hospitals right across Ontario."Mayor Dan Mathieson, Leslie Showers, HPHA board chair, and Murray Bryant, Southwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) board member, were also on hand for the announcement.Bryant said while it isn't easy to obtain funding from the Ministry and the LHIN, the HPHA was able to demonstrate a need and its request was successful. "Today, too much hospital news is focused on wait times in emergency rooms, budget problems, staff shortages and other difficulties," said Bryant. "But when hospitals need to build new capacity in response to community needs, the funding is there."HPHA CEO Andrew Williams said though annual cost increases don't match up with funding increases, leaving about a $1 million gap, this year's budget is balanced and he anticipates next year's will be balanced as well."Like any business, particularly in today's economy, we really have to focus on our costs and ensure we're balancing our operations," he said. "This type of funding today really confirms the government's commitment to making sure that continues to happen as well."As the redevelopment moves closer to completion, three types of costs will come into play - the capital costs to build, overhead costs to light, heat, cool and clean and additional services, such as the new ICU bed. Some aspects of the redevelopment, such as the mental health facility, won't cause an increase in additional service costs, while others - specifically ambulatory surgery - will have a big impact."One of the things we really need to ensure as this project comes online is that additional costs - feeding, cleaning, all of the things we would expect to see - are covered," said Williams. "This (funding) is very positive for us and will ensure when the redevelopment comes online it does not in any way negatively affect our operation budget and that's obviously our primary focus."