As I’ve stated in the past, I see a possible merger with Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) as an opportunity for innovation and collaboration that would ultimately benefit the patients and communities we serve. One of the most important benefits would be the ability to address our aging facilities and infrastructure.
On January 23, the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN) endorsed a pre-capital planning application submitted by The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) and RVHS to secure the grants necessary to proceed with the feasibility, planning and design for two facilities projects – one for Scarborough and one for west Durham (serving Ajax, Pickering and Whitby). Securing these capital planning grants is a condition of the merger between TSH and RVHS – please let me explain why.
This pre-capital planning application is the first step of a multi-year, multi-phase process. However, it is a step we urgently needed to take in order to begin to secure desperately needed government investments to modernize and expand our facilities to meet the patient care needs of our communities.
Both of the TSH hospital sites require significant attention. At the General campus, 35% of the facility is 30 to 50 years old and 43% is over 50 years old. The General campus has experienced a patchwork of expansions and repairs over the years, and as a result, it is not configured for efficient clinical services and patient flow. And, let’s not forget the vintage 1957 operating rooms that need to be modernized to accommodate current standards and practices.
At the Birchmount campus, the entire site is 30 years old and its Facility Condition Index is in the lowest 10th percentile of Ontario hospitals, indicating a need for extensive repair or replacement. Both TSH facilities have limited flexibility for adopting new practices or accommodating increasing patient workload.
In west Durham, the Rouge Valley Ajax/Pickering site only has the capacity to look after – depending on the patient program – between 30 to 50 per cent of their population. In addition, the Emergency Department at the Rouge Valley Centenary site, as well as at the TSH Birchmount campus, are grossly undersized for the patient volumes they are currently experiencing.
Using the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s own calculations, it is anticipated that it will cost approximately $1 billion over the next 20 years just to maintain the four hospital facilities for TSH and RVHS at an acceptable operating level. This does not take into account the already submitted projects to the Ministry or contemplated facility upgrades to meet current demands or standards, which are another $0.50 billion.
When you factor in the state of our equipment, these pressures are compounded. The average age of equipment at TSH is 19-years-old, compared to the provincial median of 10 years. We estimate that it would require an additional $60 million to $80 million just to bring our hospital equipment up to the provincial median.
During the 2013/14 fiscal year, the Ontario government will invest approximately $13.5 billion in new infrastructure, as part of a $35 billion infrastructure investment over the next three years. In its economic statement issued last November, the province noted that more than 100 major hospital projects have been initiated since 2003, including 40 currently in the planning or construction phases. When you look around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) where major redevelopments and new hospitals have been built or are being planned to be built, these investments are everywhere but in Scarborough.
TSH and RVHS currently operate as separate silos even though we serve the same community and often the same patients. For the Scarborough community, we must develop a shared vision, a shared strategic direction, and ultimately a single master plan to modernize our facilities.
Scarborough deserves the same level of access and scope of services as other GTA communities and we also deserve the same investments for facility infrastructure. We will only be able to ensure this equitable access to services and resources if we approach these system challenges as a unified community.