In a long awaited and much anticipated move, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has approved the pre-capital submission for the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital redevelopment project.
Northumberland-Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi made the announcement at the Prince Edward County Community Centre in Picton Tuesday to a room full of local politicians, Quinte Healthcare staff, the South East Local Health Integration Network, Prince Edward Hospital Foundation and Auxiliary members.
The pre-capital plan was the first step in the five phase process that gave a 20-year outlook for all hospitals under the QHC umbrella. The overall vision for the redevelopment is an all-around health care campus, providing various services from family doctors, to emergency rooms and inpatient beds, as well as community support services.
“We’re in a good place,” said MPP Rinaldi congratulating the community for their hard work.
“I know it’s been a little bit of time working on it. We are not there yet but certainly progressing in the right direction.”
SELHIN Chief Executive Officer Paul Huras agreed it’s an important step calling it ‘proof that the redevelopment will happen.’
“I’ve seen projects when they are a twinkling in someone’s eyes and they get built,” said Huras in an interview. “You don’t get to it being built without passing this particular pre-cap submission. It’s an important message to the community that this will happen. There will be some back and forth between us and the Ministry over numbers…This approval gives this project priority.”
Tasked with charting the course QHC director of capital development Bill Andrews said he is pleased by the government’s formal acknowledgement. He said it shows ‘they understand the need and they support it.’
The next step in the process is the Stage 1 Proposal, which Andrews said will be comprised of a formal business plan that includes evaluation of the current site, investigation of site options, a high-level space plan and cost estimate.
QHC Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Brad Harrington said they are shooting to have it complete by June 2017.
All site locations will be examined, however the County of Prince Edward’s preferred location is where the development of the Wellings of Picton project is taking place behind HJ McFarland Home, that could include the hospital, nursing homes, medical clinic with space for the Family Health Team and many more amenities.
Dr. Don Koval of the Family Health Team said Tuesday’s announcement was the first optimism about the redevelopment he has seen over his 30 years as an emergency physician at the Picton site.
He said the nature of the Picton hospital has changed dramatically and the kind of facility needed has altered too.
He pointed to how technology advancements made it possible to allow doctors the opportunity to check patient’s family physician records between visits and assist in better record keeping.
He said preventative and home care have become important parts in keeping patients well, out of the hospital and at home longer. He said there won’t be the need for a large amount of beds with the restructuring because most people are recuperating from illness at home.
The current Picton site has 12, but Koval said they ‘squeeze in others as needed’.
Price tags between $50 million and $80 million have been thrown around over the years.
While Andrews admitted it’s too early to nail down a definite number, he said it’s looking more like $50 million including architect fees.
“The estimate that had been thrown around is a high level estimate. It’s based on what we anticipate the size of the building will be and standard costing,” said Andrews. “It’s a good indication of what we expect it’s going to come out as, but it’s a long way from a hard firm estimate.”
If approved, the majority of the project will be funded by the MOHLTC with the community expected to kick in $14 million to $18 million. Fundraising efforts have been underway for several years with the Prince Edward Auxiliary already committed to $1 million.
Also very pleased with the announcement and community commitment, PEMHF chair Monica Alyea said rural areas have taken a beating whether it’s through education or healthcare. She echoed previous sentiments of the importance about the community sticking together as one unified voice.
“We have to speak up that rural is important,” the former South Marysburgh councillor stated. “We have abilities that cities don’t have to do things. We know our neighbours and our friends and have the ability to really mobilize things.”
Mayor Robert Quaiff who has also been working with councillor Bill Roberts to keep the ear of the province and get things moving called the announcement one of his most important of his term.
“This solidifies the efforts of the residents,” he said. “It’s one of the most important issues in the County. The passion that people have for their hospital here, it doesn’t take long for a politician to figure out where their position is.”