By Maureen Solecki, Vice President Strategic Planning, Community Relations and Support Services, Grey Bruce Health Services & Jennifer Edwards, CGHSF Coordinator
1. Are we getting a new hospital?
Although we have not yet received final approval or an announcement from the government, the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care (MOHLTC) has been very supportive of the planning and design process completed by Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) thus far regarding this project. The strong community support that was shown through Centre Grey Health Services Foundation’s (CGHSF) hospital campaign that raised over $13 million dollars is a very strong signal to the government that this community is solidly behind this project and we believe is a key reason for the government support that we have received with this on-going project. The $3 million dollar planning grant that was given to GBHS in May 2006 is a strong indication that the government believes in this project.
2. When will the construction begin?
The construction will begin after the government announces its approval of this project. After the approval is officially announced it will go through a tendering process with construction to begin following final Ministry approvals on that aspect of the process.
3. When is the government going to make an announcement?
We just don’t know and cannot predict this. Every stage of the step-by-step planning process that did require government approval has been approved to date and; we are still waiting for the government’s final approval. The five year plan that was recently released by the government did not include any new hospital projects.
The competition for provincial funding of large capital projects goes well beyond the health care sector and we may have to wait longer than we originally thought for the final approval of this project, as will many other hospitals with similar building projects.
4. Why is it taking so long – what is the hold-up?
We are coming to understand that the approval of a new hospital is an incredibly complicated process. It requires an intensive level of planning at the local level which has been actively underway for some time now. It also requires a very complicated approval process across many levels of government. It is not something that can or should be rushed. Although not as quickly as we hoped, things have progressed, including the completion and submission of the Functional Program to the MOHLTC in October of 2007.
After we receive their feedback, the GBHS hospital and its design team will have an opportunity to address any issues of concern, as identified by the MOHLTC; this will be submitted and the MOHLTC will review it again and determine whether or not they will give these components of the project their approval.
5. Will the community need to raise more money?
We certainly hope the community will not have to raise more money for the hospital re-build. The government requires the involvement of cost consultants on a project of this magnitude. At the present time the cost estimating for the project comes in within the 10% requirement for the community’s funding share. We are concerned about cost escalation so the sooner the project can receive implementation approval the lower the risk of any need for further community fund raising or scaling back on the project size.
6. How long can the old hospital last?
The average age of Ontario hospitals is 42 years. Parts of our current hospital are 50 years old. We have a number of building systems that no longer meet building code requirements. GBHS is reluctant to invest funds in major building upgrades when everyone’s hope is that a new hospital is on the horizon. In addition to the building system issues, the layout, size and arrangement of services in the hospital does not meet our patient’s needs as so much about the way health care is provided in hospital has changed since the building was built.
So while the building is clearly still standing and operating with its current constraints, every year that goes by adds to the concern that continuing to operate safely and efficiently in it is not sustainable. The recent need to shut down the majority of our electrical power to the building, including back-up generator support, to repair electrical switches is the kind of problem GBHS is concerned will become more common the longer a decision is delayed.
7. What level of government makes this decision?
The decision will be made by the Provincial Government with input from many sectors of the government including the South West LHIN.
8. What happens to the donated money – the $13 million – if the new hospital does not get built?
People who donated to the hospital campaign were told that if the new hospital did NOT get built, that they would have the option of getting their money back. It will not automatically be put towards something else; all donors will have the choice of getting their money back but only if the hospital is not approved by the government. We hope this will never be the case.
9. If we do get a new hospital, will we have doctors to work in it?
A brand new facility will definitely help to attract and bring new doctors to work in this area. Uncertainty about the future of the hospital adds to the challenge of recruitment of new physicians to any community.
10. How much will the new hospital cost?
The current estimate for the new hospital is approximately $52M. Original estimates for the hospital did not include extensive site development requirements, rapid escalation in hospital construction costs and changes to building design as a result of SARS which add to the size and complexity of the design.