Hamilton Health Sciences mulls closing buildings, building new hospital

Hamilton Health Sciences is mulling a dramatic restructuring that will change what healthcare looks like in Hamilton.
Hamilton Health Sciences head Rob MacIsaac said the system has outgrown the space available at the McMaster Children's Hospital location and is planning to build a new women's and children's hospital close to the General. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Hamilton Health Sciences is mulling a dramatic restructuring that will change what healthcare looks like in Hamilton.

It's not an overnight plan – the "vision" looks out 20 years or so – but its early tenets include:

  • building a new women's/children's hospital near Hamilton General
  • consolidating services at the General and the Juravinski on the Mountain
  • potentially closing some hospital buildings in the process, like St. Peters, a continuing care hospital near Gage Park and McMaster Children's Hospital, which HHS says it has outgrown.

When the city's biggest employer sneezes, people pay attention. Especially when the city's biggest employer is in the business of helping people to figure out why they're sneezing.

'We can't confine our thinking'

McMaster Children's hospital
It's too early to say what would happen with the location that HHS would leave behind, MacIsaac said. (McMaster)

Rob MacIsaac, HHS's president and CEO, said it helps patients when programs are located close to each other. Currently, continuing care patients at St. Peter's are frequently transported back and forth in ambulances to the General for tests and services, he said.

The hospital system should evolve to include more, smaller clinics spread throughout the region for specific things, he said.

"We can't confine our thinking to just hospital services," MacIsaac said.

As for the future of St. Peters or the McMaster Children's site, MacIsaac said it's too early to say what's going to happen.

"What will become of the spaces that are left behind is yet to be determined," he said. "I think it would be premature for me or really anyone to really speculate what will happen here on (the McMaster) site.

'Is this going to be about massive layoffs? Absolutely not'

MacIsaac said the restructuring could increase HHS's institutional square feet by a factor of 50 per cent.

"Is this going to be about massive layoffs? Absolutely not," he said. "A very significant part of our plan is looking at how we can improve access across the community."

A union that represents hospital workers expressed concern at the lack of specifics released so far. A press release from CUPE Local 7800 and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions said the hospital was making its plan based on a system that is already underfunded.

Michael Hurley, who represents the OCHU, said in previous restructurings, hospitals and the province have brought studies and data to bear that spark debate and discussion about the future of healthcare.

"These services are important enough to deserve that kind of meaningful consideration," he said.