After years of planning and preparation, Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) is estimating it will break ground on the new Markdale Hospital by March 2021.
“We've waited a long time and there's been a lot of effort put into this by both the community, the foundation and a council itself,” said Gary Sims, president and CEO of GBHS.
The $70-million project will be constructed to the west of the Grey Gables long-term care facility in Markdale.
The finished product is projected to consist of: 68,000-square-feet of space, inpatient beds, a palliative care room, a 24/7 emergency room with four exam and treatment areas, a laboratory, diagnostic imaging services, physiotherapy, space for ambulatory care clinics, and two ambulance bays.
“This all started back in the early 2000s,” said Grey Highlands Mayor, Paul McQueen. “And then the community really rallied around this project to raise $12-million-plus. It's been a long haul and we certainly look forward to getting those shovels out and the big ribbon cutting.”
This past year has been busy for GBHS as the project inches closer to completion.
In January, more than 300 drawings outlining the interior, exterior, mechanical workings, building materials and signs were sent to the Ministry of Health for approval.
Through the summer months, the subject lands were transferred from Grey County to GBHS and Grey Highlands council received the site plan agreement.
Grey Highlands staff and council have been working with a consultant for the past three years to refine site and serving plans.
In early fall, a call for tenders was released.
In late-November, GBHS forwarded its recommendation to award the construction contract to the Ministry of Health for final approval.
Ministry approval is expected within the next three months.
According to Sims, construction could begin as early as mid-January, but, he said, a March start date is more likely.
Project construction is expected to take two years.
“It's nice to see these tangible hurdles behind us. This is a very exciting prospect for Grey Highlands,” said Grey Highlands CAO, Karen Govan.
As GBHS awaits approval from the ministry, Sims says staff are busy working on transition planning, project planning and materials management.
“All of those pieces are necessary in order to get the project done and finished on time,” he added.
According to Sims, the new facility is expected to have double the ambulatory care space and a larger emergency department than Markdale’s current facility.
“It will have modern and new equipment. The exam rooms are larger, the patient rooms are 90 per cent private. That's a big difference from what you have today,” he said.
The new hospital will also be equipped with all-new standards for emission control and air circulation management.
In addition, GBHS is examining clinical plans for the next three years, which will explore the possibility of hosting surgeries at the Markdale facility.
“We are looking at whether or not we will be reintroducing surgery back to Markdale,” Sims said. “That would probably be a scope program and/or some ambulatory clinics. Given the space is modern, up-to-date and large, we think there's a great probability that will occur.”
In terms of employment going forward, Sims says he does not foresee any layoffs, but likely an expansion of employment once the new facility is up and running.
As far as doctor recruitment to the area, he says getting the hospital built is priority number one, but adds that the current pandemic may help attract doctors to the area.
“[Attracting doctors] is always a challenge in rural areas but I think after COVID-19, we are certainly starting to see an uptick in people applying to positions in this area,” he said.