The Hospital for Sick Children is a world-class health facility housed in an outdated series of buildings, and so its foundation is launching what it is calling the largest hospital fundraising campaign in Canadian history to rebuild from the ground up.

The campaign was unveiled Friday morning with a new two-minute, black-and-white ad that continues with the hospital's recent tradition of heartstring-tugging narratives. The ad includes 200 patient ambassadors and their siblings running through city streets and alleyways, gathering building materials and running to an empty piece of land ready for construction.

The fundraising goal is $1.3 billion.

The main hospital opened in 1951, said Ted Garrard, SickKids Foundation CEO, and the facility's newest building is itself 25 years old.

"You can't practice 21st century medicine in a 1949 building," Garrard told CBC Radio's Here and Now.

In the hospital's oldest part, according to Garrard, the ceiling heights can't accommodate robotic technology, while the floor plates can't hold the weight of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. The neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) is also organized in a way that reflects how babies used to be cared for: beds stacked up next to each other.

"We know that that has the potential of spreading infection, which babies don't need, and also it doesn't give room for the parents to be close to the children, which we know now is really important to the outcomes of those kids," Garrard said. "The standard of care for neo-natal kids is private rooms, where the families can be."

In the bone marrow transplant unit, in which 50 per cent of all bone marrow transplants in Canada occur, some children have to stay in isolation for six months or up to a year, Garrard said. The kids don't have rooms to play in or even their own bathrooms.

"This was what people thought you would use 60 years ago, even 30 years ago," Garrard said. "It's not the way to treat kids today."

Garrard added: "What we're thinking about is not just how do we treat kids today in these facilities that we hope to build over the next 10 years, but how will we be treating them 20 years from now, 30 years from now. That's the kind of planning that we have to do."

'They'll continue to get world-class care'

The 10-year plan includes bringing the facility's buildings down in stages, Garrard said. As one building comes down and one goes up, patients and equipment will be moved into the new buildings while others are torn down and rebuilt.

SickKids fundraising campaign

The two-minute, black-and-white ad was released Friday. (SickKids Foundation)

Under the current plan, work begins next summer, when the first building to be torn down will be the McMaster research facility at the corner of Elm and Elizabeth streets. A new 20-plus storey patient-support centre will rise in its place.

Once that's up, patients from the oldest part of the hospital will be moved in so crews can tear down the patient facilities on University Avenue. They will be replaced by two conjoined structures, one of which is a tower to house the critical care units (the NICU and bone marrow transplant units, for example), and another for outpatient facilities.

But the fundraising campaign isn't just for the new buildings, Garrard said. It will also fund ongoing research done at the hospital, as well as efforts to offer better co-ordinated, less fragmented care.

"We want to make sure that we work together with other organizations in the community, with the doctors, the pediatricians, to make sure that that kid is getting the right care, at the right time, at the right place," he said.

When the hospital was first built, some 87,000 people contributed to that fundraising campaign. Garrard said he hopes the city's residents take up the cause this time, as well.

"We hope there's going to be minimal disruption to patients and their families and that they'll continue to get world-class care," he said. "Because what they have to look forward to I think is really special."


The SickKids Foundation is aiming to raise $1 billion to completely overhaul the facility.