This post was originally posted on The Niagara Falls Review on February 21, 2023 and can be viewed here.
Any lingering doubts that a multibillion-dollar hospital will soon be a reality at the Niagara Falls corner of Montrose and Biggar roads will soon be eliminated.
“I’ve heard from people, ‘Oh, we’ll believe it when we see it,’” said Niagara Health president and chief executive officer Lynn Guerriero. “Now, they’re going to get to see it.”
Construction of the south Niagara hospital is to begin this summer, after the hospital system and Infrastructure Ontario announced Tuesday a $3.6-billion contract was awarded to London, Ont.-based EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare to design, build, finance and maintain the 120,774-square-metre hospital.
“It’s going to happen pretty quickly,” Guerriero said.
She said Niagara Health’s project team will move to temporary accommodations in multiple trailers set up at the site as construction continues for the next five years.
When it’s a reality in about 2028, the hospital will be 12 storeys tall with up to 469 beds — 156 beds more than the hospital system now offers to accommodate Niagara’s growing population.
It will be a “centre of excellence” for complex care, wellness in aging and stroke care, as well as medical services including emergency, critical care, diagnostics, therapeutic care and surgery.
It will feature state-of-the-art infection prevention and control measures and will be designed to accommodate new health-care technology as it becomes available, as well as an Indigenous healing space and garden designed by a team of Indigenous leaders from throughout Niagara.
Guerriero said the new facility will “100 per cent” help in the recruitment and retention of medical staff.
She said consolidated services offered in Niagara Falls will mean less on-call shifts for medical staff — specifically anesthesiologists — while newer graduates “want to work in state-of-the-art facilities and they want the best equipment and they want the biggest advancements in diagnostics.”
“There are all kinds of things that physicians and other team members will be looking for and I don’t think we should underestimate the ability that this hospital will have to attract and retain people,” she said.
But at $3.6 billion, she said it will cost significantly more than the $759-million St. Catharines hospital that opened in March 2013.
“Obviously the costs went up and we recognize that this is a massive investment for the province to make, but I think the Niagara region has deserved it for very long time and I’m really glad that they (the province) signed off on the project,” she said. “Albeit very expensive, it’s very needed.”
While EllisDon will be responsible for putting together its team of subcontractors for the build, Niagara Health will work with the company to identify opportunities for local businesses and residents to participate.
More information about the hospital is at niagarahealth.on.ca/site/south-niagara-hospital-project.
EllisDon was one of three companies shortlisted for the project in July 2021. Plenary PCL and a consortium of companies called Niagara Care Partners were the other two.
Guerriero said she was “really excited about the design” EllisDon presented during the procurement process.
EllisDon has built several hospitals across Canada, including the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning tower at SickKids hospital in Toronto, Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital and Providence Care Hospital in Kingston.
Before hospital construction begins, the city and Niagara Region will be adding infrastructure to support the facility. The Region recently approved a $28-million investment to redevelop part of Montrose Road to support the development and increased traffic.
“The interesting thing abut building a new hospital is you have to have backup systems for everything. There’s really careful consideration for water, power and that kind of thing,” Guerriero said.
Although she said timing of some of those infrastructure projects has yet to be determined, “getting the road rebuilt is a priority because we’re going to be bringing in massive heavy equipment.”
She said planning for the hospital continued throughout the pandemic, despite the redeployment of non-urgent staff to the hospital’s pandemic response.
“This team, we sequestered them at home and said ‘Keep going,’ because we couldn’t afford to miss any time here. I’m so proud that the team didn’t lose any ground and we’re exactly where we thought we would be according to the plan. … I’m really proud of the team. They pulled this off at a time when we could have been redeploying them on other things,” she said.
“There will be a big celebration now for the team. They deserve it.”