Decades of planning, fundraising, and advocacy came to fruition in 2021, when shovels hit the ground to kick off the construction of the new Markdale hospital in March.
The $70 million project was granted approval by the provincial government in late February, who announced that the new Toronto Street South hospital would be built by Bird Construction.
“It pays to persevere,” said Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen. “This has been in the works for almost 25 years. I know there was a big campaign somewhere around 2000, where the community raised $13 million toward the capital costs.”
After a new hospital was recommended by Grey Bruce District Health Council in 1997, a $12 million fundraising campaign was launched in 2002.
Grey County donated the lands for the hospital in 2005, and Grey Highlands pledged $1.2 million in funding for the hospital the same year, to be paid when construction began.
Finally granted approval in 2021, the new hospital is slated for completion in late 2023, and will include 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.
Gary Sims, president and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services, said the wait for the new hospital required a great degree of patience from community members.
“I do feel an extreme frustration from the community and, to some degree, a lack of trust, or a need for that trust to be rebuilt as the new hospital gets built so that people believe it's actually happening,” he said. “Some people gave over a million dollars 15 to 20 years ago. There are those people who have waited so patiently for this.”
The current hospital will continue to serve the community's needs through the construction period.
It is anticipated that the current hospital's staff will see their team grow once the new facility is constructed.
“All indications are with a new modern facility and with all this ambulatory care space, it's going to really help recruit professionals to the area,” said John Kurvink, vice president of performance and financial strategy, CFO for Grey Bruce Health Services.
“We don't see anything other than growth for this area and certainly there's a lot of people migrating from the GTA into Grey County and so we think this hospital is going to be quite busy.”
Following the approval of the project in early 2021, Grey Highlands and Grey County were put on the hook for contributions they had pledged in years past.
Grey County contributed $780k to the hospital's construction – funds it had set aside fifteen years ago.
“Today's amount combined with the value of the land at $220,000 brings the total contribution to $1 million. These funds have been set aside in the reserve fund anticipating this contribution since 2006,” said Grey County Warden Selwyn Hicks.
Grey Highlands council, as well, moved forward with its $1.2 million pledge to the hospital.
“We hope that you will be willing to provide us with the $1.2 million that was so generously pledged back in 2005,” said Dave Fawcett, member of the Together Care fundraising campaign for the Markdale Hospital. “Now that the shovels have hit the ground, we're being asked for very large figures on a regular basis.”
With $1 million sitting in its hospital reserve, the municipality sourced the remaining funds from its working capital reserve in the 2022 budget process.
Upon request, Grey Highlands pledged an additional $180k in funding to the hospital, to be paid over five years.
Excavation, road construction, and sewer installation were completed by June 2021, with exterior walls and roof construction anticipated for spring 2022.
The building is slated for completion by spring 2023, with several additional months planned for moving in furniture and equipment.