Ottawa Hospital Civic campus public consultation starts today

The first public consultation of the reopened efforts to replace the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus is happening later today.

Site at Central Experimental Farm announced in 2014, but process reopened in January

Some buildings at the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus on Carling Avenue first opened in 1924. The first public consultation of the latest push to build a new hospital will be held Monday, March 7, 2016. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

The first public consultation of the reopened efforts to replace the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus is happening later today.

The Conservative government announced plans in November 2014 to build a new Carling Avenue hospital across the road from the current hospital, which opened in 1924, using land on the Central Experimental Farm.

After scientists and heritage advocates raised concerns about the effect that would have on the farm, a National Historic Site and government research station dating back to 1886, the hospital announced in February it was going to look into other options.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, whose Ottawa Centre riding includes the Civic hospital and farm, said in January the government was reviewing the process that led to that 2014 announcement.

On Monday, McKenna said she was "excited" for the chance for "a real consultation" on the future of the hospital, where her three children were born.

"Unfortunately, that didn't happen in the past," McKenna said. 

Ottawa Hospital president and CEO Dr. Jack Kitts said on Ottawa Morning Monday that the "once-in-a-century opportunity" has been marred by controversy.

"I regret that where the site is has eclipsed the more important question of what this hospital will do for the future of healthcare in our city," he said. 

Larger property sought

The public consultation runs from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre at 200 Coventry Road.

Kitts said the hospital will be sharing information about the need for a new hospital and the process they're using to find one.

"Sadly the Civic is a patchwork of buildings intermingled on 23 acres. Just by comparison the Queensway Carleton Hospital is on 50 acres, the Montfort (Hospital) is on 48 acres," he said.

"All modern, 21st century hospitals of our size are on 60 acres or more. So we're really squeezed… and this is not in the best interests of the citizens of Ottawa in 21st-century healthcare."

Kitts said they're focusing on four options for three sites:

  • The former Sir John Carling building at the northeast corner of the farm.
  • Using part of the Tunney's Pasture government office complex.
  • The site that was put forward in 2014 at the northwest corner of the farm.
  • A "reconfiguration" of that 2014 plan to deal with concerns over its impact on the farm's scientific work.

On its website, the hospital says "additional consultation activities will follow" without giving any more details.

Tunney's Pasture pushed by group

A group that raised concerns about that 2014 plan, the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm, will have a booth at the public consultation to talk about the research that's being done at the farm.

Leslie Maitland with the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm says their ultimate goal is to protect the farm's research. (CBC)

Leslie Maitland with the coalition said there are ways to get a new hospital without working on "Field No. 1", the site of the 2014 proposal that's doing long-term work on the effects of climate change on crops.

"If you look at the big picture of what's good for the city of Ottawa and for (the hospital's) constituency, which is eastern Ontario and Nunavut, the win-win can allow the farm to remain intact especially if they're willing to consider Tunney's Pasture or even open up the choice of sites they looked at in 2008," she said.

"There is no way of putting a hospital onto Field No. 1 without completely destroying its research capacity. There's no getting around that."

Maitland said the proposal to use the former Sir John Carling building site would be less damaging to the farm since there's no scientific work in the area, but her preference would be to keep it off the farm altogether.

"Tunney's (Pasture) certainly looks like a very good site because that means there is no impact on the farm," she said.

"The hospital can speak to other aspects of Tunney's (Pasture) such as (if) it's the appropriate size, access off (Highway) 417, all those other things that hospitals need to worry about. That would suggest that Tunney's is a better site than anywhere on the farm."

Whatever ends up happening, Maitland said she's "thrilled" the process was reopened and looks to be following an evidence-based process.

With files from Ottawa Morning