PECMH redevelopment expected to get underway in 2024 as project moves to Stage 4

CONSIDERING THE LONG AND ARDUOUS JOURNEY- Standing at the site of the proposed Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith and former Mayor of the County of Prince Edward Leo Finnegan reflect on the decade long journey where their respective paths intersected in relation to the local hospital. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff
JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

Shovels in the ground by 2024 and site preparations starting this fall. Prince Edward County, your brand new, state-of-the-art hospital will be here in just a few short years.

Bay of Quinte MPP and long time Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital advocate Todd Smith brought sunshine and good news to Picton on Tuesday as he announced the Ontario government is moving the proposed PECMH redevelopment to the fourth step of a five-stage project, paving the way for the new facility to go to tender.

The Ministry of Health has approved Quinte Health Care’s Stage 3.2 preliminary design drawings, allowing the hospital corporation to continue working with Infrastructure Ontario toward the new build. Stage 4 will allow QHC to prepare detailed designs (including comprehensive breakdowns of materials and cost estimates); Finalize all tender documents ; Tender the project and evaluate proposals, select a preferred vendor, and make a submission to the ministry to approve a construction grant and move forward to implementation Typically, this stage lasts between 18-24 months, meaning construction could begin as early as Spring 2024.

In the meantime, some site preparation including the relocation of the hospital’s helipad will get underway this fall.

When constructed, the new Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital will have a 24-hour emergency department, 18 inpatient beds (expandable to 23), diagnostic imaging, a surgical suite, a dialysis unit and ambulatory care. The new PECMH will also feature state-of-the-art design to promote infection prevention and control.

The epic saga of protecting what was here in the form of the current PECMH and advocating for a new legacy of health care in Prince Edward County was not lost on Smith and others gathered on the green space adjacent to the soon-to-be-relocated helipad Tuesday morning.

The MPP harkened back to a decade prior when hospital advocacy groups such as Patrons of Our County Hospital and Save Our Services met with the then new legislator on a different lawn at Queen’s Park, concerned about potential cuts to services and staff at PECMH. Smith recalled then-health critic Christine Elliot took particular interest in this case and has been excited to see the redevelopment move through the various capital phases toward a day when shovels will be placed into the ground in the area north to the current facility.

“Minister Elliott has also listened to colleagues in rural areas and put us in a great position to ensure our hospitals have responsive 24/7 emergency rooms, inpatient beds, and diagnostic and surgical capabilities.  In the past four years, we’ve continued to provide annualized funding increases for small, medium, and multi-site hospitals.  Here at QHC, that means about $20 million more in base funding this year, compared to 2018-2019 – and that’s not counting additional one-time and COVID-19 relief funds.,” Smith said. “We did this because we know there is great need to have high-quality health services close to home.  Prince Edward County has a mean age well above the provincial average.  Housing starts are booming here.  And, each summer, there is more and more visitation that brings both prosperity and pressures on the resources here.  We know this is important to the people who call this island home.”

President and CEO of QHC Stacey Daub said she had been eagerly awaiting this day since coming onboard last January and understood the value and importance of PECMH to this community.

QHC President and CEO Stacey Daub. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“I’ve heard many of the stories and witnessed the passion and it is the community that makes hospitals strong-not just the organizations involved but the community standing right behind it. Today we have the opportunity to make health care stronger in the County,” Daub said. “There’s no turning back from Stage 4 and there are a lot of people that are going to be sleeping better tonight knowing we are cemented in our process to build a beautiful hospital in our community.”

Daub also praised Elliot for her leadership with regards to Ontario’s small and rural hospitals first health minister in her career to recognized these key health hubs in small communities and has driven through substantive changes in terms of funding formulas and also working capital issues.

“This is a lasting legacy she’s left as a minister for small and rural health care in Ontario as has Minister Smith when it comes to this community. They are both relentless champion for better health care for this region,” Daub said.

Daub added today’s announcement  wouldn’t be possible  without perseverance, commitment and dedication of the volunteers and staff of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation. The fundraising organization has been hard at work raising the community’s share of the project to ensure a new PECMH was ready to make the steps in the aforementioned Ministry of Health stages that are required prior to construction.

The President also made mention of the work of the PECMH Auxiliary and their tireless efforts in fundraising for the hospital.

County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson said the dedication and relentless commitment to the PECMH redevelopment project has been “unwavering and extraordinary.”

Ferguson alluded to the quest towards a new PECMH as a marathon and not a sprint.

“As any marathoner will tell you, there are times when you hit a wall and want to give up. But you push through such as this team has and the goal gets closer and closer. Success is a lot easier to achieve with someone supporting you and in this case, we’ve seen that support time and time and time again. Residents, the Foundation, the Auxiliary, the local Family Health Team and Minister Smith have all been cheerleaders and advocates as has Leo Finnegan who I would like to recognize for his long and dedicated service to our community and this project,” the Mayor noted, adding that municipal government firmly believes in residents and visitors being able to access the healthcare they need close to home for generations to come.

“We look forward to cheering on this project towards the finish line,” Ferguson added.

Dr. Sarah Leblanc (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Foundation Chair Barb McConnell said the group was so grateful for any and all levels of donations to the Back the Build campaign. Dimes and dollars have helped the Foundation close in on its goal rapidly.

“We are so excited to say to the province we are doing this and we are going to go all the way to the finish line,” McConnell said. 

In her remarks, local family physician Sarah Leblanc said the local complement of family doctors have a fantastic job, providing a meaningful service to our fellow residents. Work with kind, professional caring colleagues, support staff, nurses, technicians and administration .

“We have a strong community that supports and appreciates the service we provide. That said, as our physicians retire, there are fewer and fewer of us in Prince Edward County caring for a larger and more complex population,” Leblanc said.

The impact of the COVID pandemic on physical and mental health of everyone- physicians included- cannot be understated and Dr. Leblanc noted that thankfully the local contingent of family doctors have received support from our local council in terms of recruitment.

“Announcements like todays that will build and refresh health care in Prince Edward County clearly demonstrates how our work is valued and will hopefully draw new physicians to our area. A beautiful facility that reflects the quality of care provided in Prince Edward County is so appreciated by the local community,” LeBlanc said.

Within throwing distance of the Picton street baring his name, Smith utilized the words of British politician and writer Benjamin Disraeli who is quoted as saying  “Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.”

“Through years of waiting and questioning, no one here has lost faith.  One-by-one the foundation’s Back The Build pledges have kept this project in the spotlight and many hands have moved it along.  Today, I’m pleased to once again reaffirm that we’re going to get it done for Prince Edward County. “