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SMH brings expansion plans to council, focus now on new addition

Posted November 27, 2012

Stevenson Memorial Hospital (SMH) has abandoned plans to pursue a replacement facility, a plan rejected by the Ministry of Health, and is now focused instead on a two-storey addition to accommodate a modernized emergency department and its ancillary units - operating, digital imaging, and laboratory services.

Scott Anderson, past chair of the SMH Board, and chair of the Future Health Care Centre Committee (FHCCC) a sub-committee whose mandate is to develop the revised submission that hopes to not only score Ministry approval, but the approximate 90 per cent funding that would accompany it, outlined the concept to New Tecumseth councillors last night as part of the broader community outreach to solicit support for the program.

Mr. Anderson explained the new hospital building plan was abandoned because the Ministry "view was there was not going to be any entirely new hospitals approved in the current term for smaller community hospitals."

"In dialogue they recommended that we should continue to investigate other alternatives, and in that regard they invited us to consider resubmitting, and our committee has been set up to look at what would we want to consider," he said. "And what we're focused on is attaching a new addition to the hospital, rather than a whole new hospital, that would allow us to provide new space for those important services but operate the rest of the hospital for other services and possibly bring some new services into the hospital."

He noted the submission is being built on a pillar of "four strong points of view."

At the top are the physical limitations of the 50-year-old SMH building on Fletcher Cres, which was built to accommodate a population catchment of approximately 7,000 people.

"Currently we're approaching 30,000 visits a year," said Mr. Anderson. "We've been able to do a little bit of renovation and expansion within the hospital, but we certainly haven't been able to create the kind of space we need. And that creates issues."

With age, comes the second point. "Our basic infrastructure is obsolete, especially with respect to the operation room and the emergency department. And these obsolences create issues with standards in terms of building standards, fire codes, and obviously with health care standards (patient privacy, disease control) there's literally not much more that we can do with the existing space to keep up with existing standards."

The third view is the fact that New Tecumseth has one of highest concentrations of citiziens over the age of 55 not only in Simcoe County, but in the province, "so we also have a unique need in our population base for our emergency services and operating room."

Lastly, the SMH catchment area has a population of about 55,000 people, but growth plans already approved or in the planning approvals process in the region, will boost that population to 90,000 people over the next 20 years.

"That is simply a population growth and a demographic that our facility can not keep up with. It's not able to keep current today, we certainly can't keep current with that kind of growth," said Mr. Anderson. "We basically have to have new infrastructure for the emergency and operating room. So we've been listening to the government, and we've been focused on putting in a submission that will win their approval this time, and focusing on urgent parts of our hospital that are desparate for new infrastructure."

It's expected the new proposal will be submitted to the Ministry by year's end, or in early 2013.

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