PECMHF members discuss new hospital with Rotary Club of Picton

Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

With the plans for a new hospital in Picton officially having moved into Stage 3 of 5, members of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation (PECMHF) provided information and fielded questions at the latest virtual Rotary Club of Picton meeting on July 28.

Shannon Coull, PECMHF Executive Director, Nancy Parks, PECMHF Capital Campaign Co-Chair, Charlene Jackson Project Coordinator at Quinte Healthcare and Bill Andrews, Director of Capital Development at Quinte Healthcare all joined the meeting.

With the official announcement of Stage 3, the question of the new hospital becomes not “if” but “when” and as Coull noted, the plan is for a new hospital to be operational by 2025.

Parks spoke to the progress made in terms of the hospital campaign, signalling they’re within range of the end goal of $16.5 million.

“We have raised over $11.5 million towards the $16.5 million campaign goal,” she said. “Since the Stage 3 announcement, we have been working hard to make pledges turn into cash, along with going back and speaking with people who have indicated they’d like to have a further conversation. Our ten member team has been working very and are happy to do so.”

Parks added there is no doubt the necessary funds will be raised.

Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation Executive Director Shannon Coull. (Submitted Photo)

“Since Stage 3 was announced, we’ve had a lot of activity. A lot of people have been stepping up and want to be part of it,” she stated. “I have no doubt we will raise the funds we need that the Ministry of Health requires for us to complete the campaign.”

Andrews described the project as having been in the works for longer than some might expect, with early beginnings back in 2004. Furthermore, QHC had a lengthy wait to get from Stage 2 of development to Stage 3.

“Shannon mentioned both Charlene and I have been involved since the beginning, which goes all the way the way back to 2004,” noted Andrews. “Now, we really have a concept of how this development will proceed.”

As Andrews explained, Stage 3 is a huge milestone in the development of a hospital, wherein the provincial government’s commitment moves from concept to reality.

“Stage 3 approval was a big milestone. It’s typically the point at which the government makes commitments that are far less uncertain,” said Andrews. “It was gratifying, because that did take a long time-more than a year that it was outstanding.”

Speaking in concrete terms, Andrews described Stage 3 as being a preliminary design phase, the finer details of which will be fleshed out in Stage 4.

In speaking of the site and design of the future hospital, he was careful to note they were fortunate to be gifted a portion of land on which the new hospital can be built. That land, as luck would have it, is adjacent to the current hospital.

“There was a strong preference from community and hospital staff that the new hospital remain on the existing site. We were fortunate that a significant block of land adjacent to the hospital was donated,” he said.

The new hospital, as Andrews pointed out in several slides, will be a two storey construct. The first level will contain all clinical services, along with support services and some office functions.

The second storey of the new hospital will be largely devoted to electrical and mechanical functions as well as the hemodialysis clinic.

As well, the new build will require the relocation of the helipad, demolition of the existing hospital construction of parking space and construction of green space.

Despite the change in place, Andrews pointed out there would be no change in services offered.

“All services at the hospital now will be retained,” he said. “There’s no change in services.”

He added that, in the future, there are plans to add five beds to the existing 18 bed count at the hospital.

“The only significant expansion is bed expansion. Currently, we have 18 beds and that has to expand by five beds between 2024 and 2035,” stated Andrews.

Rotarian Rob Leek questioned why the extra beds could not be added right away.

“Why not just build them now,” asked Leek.

“Technically that’s not allowed,” replied Andrews. “We’re intending to have discussions with the Ministry about that. We would like to, but we need approval that the ministry would support spending the money now rather than deferring five years.”

With provincial debt due to COVID-19 and a possible change in government before the hospital is built, David Bird expressed skepticism and inquired as to whether these things had been considered.

“I’m a bit skeptical,” expressed Bird. “We know the provincial debt will be huge and there may be a change of government. Does this make anyone nervous?”

Coull fielded Bird’s question, replying that COVID-19 had no impact on the capital budget and progressing to Stage 3 means plans for the hospital will move ahead until the new hospital is built.

“COVID-19 has had zero impact on the capital budget. There’s other budgets that have been impacted, but the ministry’s capital budget has been completely protected,” explained Coull. “We’ve done a lot of research…not one person has ever heard of a project being derailed after passing into Stage 3. We’d be the first in history, should that happen.”

Coull confirmed she had consulted with MPP Todd Smith and representatives from the ministry along with planning partners about this.

She added that subsequent stages have nothing to do with the ministry approving or revoking approval of the new hospital build.

“We are in good shape,” said Coull.