ABOYNE – The countdown is now on.
On Oct. 10, officials celebrated the halfway mark of the construction of the new Groves hospital southwest of Fergus. Prior to an official ceremony, representatives were taken on limited tours of the building.
Stephen Street, president and CEO of Groves Memorial Community Hospital, told those gathered it had been 14 months since the hospital groundbreaking ceremony.
“This is truly a remarkable moment … We are on track to be moving our patients and staff there in the spring of 2020,” said Street.
Currently the hospital is 52 per cent complete, including the “structural phase of the building,” he explained.
Street called Ellis Don “a great partner” to work with design teams.
“The hospital is about 50% larger than our current site, but our community is growing,” said Street.
“We’re going to fill the space really quickly.”
He explained officials have “strategically grown certain departments,” including emergency, diagnostic imaging, ambulatory care and the maternal/newborn space.
“We had almost 500 births in our community last year,” said Street. “It is great to have a vibrant community and the new Groves hospital will play a role in that vibrancy.”
Infrastructure minister Monte McNaughton said he was honoured to be at the future site of the new Groves hospital.
“The Centre Wellington community is going to be very happy when the hospital opens,” he said.
“This visit feels like spending time with an old friend. That’s because we’ve been hearing about this project for many years in the Legislature from your local MPP Ted Arnott.”
McNaughton added Arnott “has been a huge advocate for this hospital. You’re lucky to have him as your representative.”
McNaughton also thanked Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong for his dedication to the people of this community.
“For people in the Centre Wellington community, your new hospital will be bigger, brighter … More people will have faster access to modern health care options closer to home,” McNaughton said.
He added, “We know that infrastructure investment has positive impact on our economy.”
McNaughton said he was lucky to have met a few of the 180 workers on site, whom he called “good people doing important work.”
He noted the province wants to work with the private sector to deliver vital infrastructure like the Groves hospital.
In introducing the Wellington-Halton Hills MPP, Street described Arnott as a “fierce advocate” for the new hospital and the rural community.
“He has pushed across party lines in support of this new hospital and was with us for each construction milestone,” said Street.
“Once the youngest MPP in the Ontario Legislature, he is now one of the longest serving members, and today he serves as Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly.”
“If you’ve been watching the Ontario Legislature channel in recent weeks, you’ll believe me when I say ‘I am glad to be home’,” Arnott joked.
He explained Dr. Abraham Groves, “upon his passing, left his hospital to our community, so many years ago … but he also bequeathed to us his vision of community-based, compassionate and caring health care, animated by the twin values of working together as a team, and always putting patients first.
“That vision continues to inspire all of us today, but most of all, it inspires the staff and volunteers who are associated with Groves hospital.”
Arnott noted that in Centre Wellington, “we’ve been committed to ‘health quality indicators’ since Dr. Groves began his practice in 1871, even though we didn’t call it that.
“We’ve been doing health care integration before the government invented the term. We were putting patients first before anybody used that expression at Queen’s Park.”
Arnott explained adding the new hospital was first approved in 2011 by the former provincial government.
“From the beginning, we refused to allow it to become a political football, because the local health care of our residents is too important,” he said. “We set partisan politics aside, and worked across party lines to get this done.”
Arnott offered his “deepest gratitude” to Groves staff members, the “dedicated and energetic” volunteer association, the hospital board, the foundation, donors, and “the entire community … for your patience and perseverance, which has brought us to this day.”
Chong thanked the province of Ontario and McNaughton for their continued support of the new hospital.
“I would also recognize Ted Arnott, who has tirelessly worked over the past 15 years advocating for the construction of this hospital,” said Chong.
He noted the new hospital “would not happen without the support of the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and financial supporters.”
“This community has been blessed by a lot of people over the decades … (who) have helped raise tens of millions of dollars for the operation and construction costs for the existing and new hospitals.”
He added, “Without those volunteers, it just wouldn’t happen.”
Chong added the physical structure being celebrated “is just the latest iteration of 147 years of health care leadership in the community.”
He too noted the significant contributions of Dr. Abraham Groves, a leader in surgery and sterilization techniques who performed the first successful appendectomy in North America – “right here in Fergus, Ontario” – and established the first hospital in the area, the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
When Groves died in 1932, he gifted the hospital to the town of Fergus.
Street explained the new Groves hospital will have 45 beds, an increase from the current 39.
He explained the on-site helicopter pad allows more seamless transfers to and from major medical centres.
Street said 80% of the inpatient rooms, which have views towards the Grand River and the Elora Cataract Trail, will be private rooms.
But even in semi-private rooms, each bed has a dedicated washroom and shower.
Support services include a “robust” “team of health care professionals and physicians to support the growth of the hospital, he added.
He anticipates substantial completion of the hospital structure by next November, leaving five months to bring in staff and equipment and train them to work in the new space.