Groundwork begins this year, but new hospital at least a few years away

FERGUS – It looks like a new Groves hospital may still not be ready to open its doors until 2017.

But at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This year, it looks as if the work to create an access road is set to begin, paving the way for construction of the new Groves Memorial Community Hospital in the next few years.

Gord Feniak of the hospital building committee spoke recently at a town hall meeting hosted by the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

Though there appeared to be considerable delay for the project, “It is not through a lack of effort on our part,” Feniak said.

Roughly a decade ago, studies identified the need for significant hospital renovations.

Feniak said the Ministry of Health informed the community that it would need to pay its fair share for the updates.

At that point the community rallied and raised the money in record time. However, the community was then told new standards were in place and therefore more extensive renovations were required, Feniak said.

“What that meant, was that it no longer made sense to do a renovation. It was getting to the point where it would be the same cost as building a new hospital… everyone agreed a new hospital made more sense.”

Then the local Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) became involved and another review was required.

Feniak said a key date for proponents was in August 2011, with the province announcing “there would indeed be a new hospital.” The intent was to put the project to tender in 2014-15.

Feniak said planning involved looking at detailed functions of today, and project what is needed for the future. The next step looked at what services worked well with other services.

The solution accepted by the Ministry of Health and the local LHIN is that integration is needed to become more efficient. That included the idea of creating a “campus” approach with health care facilities in close proximity to one another.

But when it came to a shared-use facility, it was revealed that other potential users have different funding models.

“Many of them lease rather than own buildings,” Feniak said. “We  reached a compromise where we as a hospital are committed to a future plan of integration.” He explained officials are going to build a hospital that fits with the current regulations and guidelines with another building in close proximity to it.

“In the future, we have the intention of joining those buildings. It may seem a simple solution, but it took a long time to get to it,” Feniak said.

He added the 105 acres of land was purchased in conjunction with Wellington County. An access road to the hospital would come from the Beatty Line and curve up to intersect with Colborne Street.

“Starting very soon, the county will be overseeing construction of that road (leading to the hospital),” Feniak said, adding that road will be built this year so it is in place prior to the hospital construction.

He stressed the site plan may yet change, but proponents were hopeful it would be accepted by the ministry. Once approved, it still needs approval from Infrastructure Ontario.

Feniak said the heli-pad on the site is placed so that it would not interfere with other hospital operations. The helipad would be at the entrance to the hospital’s emergency department.

Feniak noted the current Groves hospital is somewhat unusual in that the public shares the same entrance as the emergency department. That would change, and the main hospital entrance would face the roadway and main parking area.

Feniak said proponents hope the adjacent integrated health facility could potentially house family health teams, mental health services and/or a related use, which would be built near or at the same time as the hospital.

Feniak added the lands behind the hospital would be allocated for future expansion.

He added the new hospital will involve a fairly complex tender which he did not anticipate to be dealt with until the end of 2015 – and there would be a few years of hospital construction after that.