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Group Health Centre to spend half a million Orazoonies on new building study

GHC hopes to move to one main building. David O. says he's 'optimistic' the province will approve the final project
Rear exterior of Group Health Centre building at 240 McNabb Street, May 26, 2016. Darren Taylor/SooToday

The provincial government is providing $500,000 for a study examining the need for a new Group Health Centre building.

The funding was announced by Sault MPP David Orazietti at the Group Health Centre Thursday morning.

The new building, which will need final approval by the province, would possibly be built where the parking lot of the existing 50-year-old Group Health Centre at 240 McNabb Street is located, though other sites will be looked at, said Alex Lambert, Group Health Centre president and CEO, speaking to reporters after Thursday's funding announcement.

"This actually does start the process," Lambert said.

"We're going to use this money to engage in a functional review, we're going to review a limited number of pre-selected sites to ensure we have the right location in town, and we're going to start building the plan, the budget and the schedule around a potential RFP in the fall."

Lambert did not say what other sites, apart from 240 McNabb, are under consideration.

"We're hoping to announce that in the fall once we go through our analysis," Lambert said.

The Group Health Centre organization is currently spread out over seven locations across the city (it owns five of those locations).

"We're looking at one main building, we may continue to have one additional outbuilding, but one main building for the majority of our services would be the goal," Lambert told SooToday.

The Group Health Centre (GHC) occupies approximately 105,000 square feet across the city, so planners are looking at building a new structure approximately 100,000 square feet in size.

The new building is needed, Lambert said.

"We have ongoing elevator issues, roof issues, all the things that come with an old building, but the biggest thing is we can't accommodate our new operational design in this building, because it's all individual offices and we're moving to more of a team-based healthcare model and we can't level it internally and redo it…by the time you do that, you might as well put up a new building."

It is felt the current GHC site would be demolished eventually, Lambert said.

It is not yet known what would happen to GHC sites such as the facility at 170 East Street.

"As we go through the process we have to decide where we are going to be, what services are going to be located at the consolidated building, and what do we do with any residual buildings that are left as part of the process, there are a number of options on the table," Lambert said.

"Group Health Centre was originally envisioned as a one-stop shop, and just due to growth we've gotten away from that."

"Only 52 percent of our services are actually located here at 240 McNabb, so we're basically spread out all over, and we want to bring that back (the single location) so that patients have a single place to go, that they understand the Group Health Centre and the services are in one location," Lambert said.

"It will benefit staff and healthcare providers as well because they can better collaborate and better engage in the culture you get with a single building." 

This is likely a four- to five-year project, Lambert said.

"We're going to take our time and do a lot of work in the planning stage…we're targeting this fall for a confirmed plan around location and we would come back and announce our status update at that point."

Lambert estimated the new building would be a $40 million to $50  million project.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care would be the major contributor of funding for the new building, but Lambert said the project would also involve GHC fundraising (including, it is hoped, corporate donations) as well as GHC contributions through "asset disposition and traditional financing."

Lambert said there will "absolutely" be opportunity for patient input as GHC undertakes the study.

"I don't know exactly how it's going to work yet, all of those things are in play such as forums, surveys, town halls, individual focus groups, but we definitely want patient input, in fact we want input across the entire stakeholder spectrum, including physicians, staff and patients, as well as the Ministry." 

Though final approval by the Ministry is needed, Orazietti told SooToday "our government and our Ministry (of Health and Long-Term Care) is very supportive of infrastructure that improves patient care, so it (the GHC study) will receive a full and thorough evaluation." 

"I'm optimistic (of Ministry approval of the GHC project)," Orazietti said. 

Colliers Project Leaders, an infrastructure project management firm, has been brought in to assist with the study, Lambert said.

Colliers Project Leaders is a division of Ottawa-based Colliers International.



Ontario is helping the Group Health Centre move forward on its initial planning stage for a proposed new building, improving efficiency, access, privacy and the patient experience, David Orazietti MPP announced today.

“Our government is committed to making strategic infrastructure investments that will benefit our communities across Ontario and the North,” said Orazietti.  “Today’s $500,000 investment towards the planning of a new Group Health Centre building will contribute to the future of healthcare delivery here in the Sault, allowing for improved efficiency and patient care.”

Provincial funding of $500,000 is being provided through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. 

This funding is being used to support the Functional Program Review related to a proposed new Group Health Centre building and planning for the proposed redevelopment of the Group Health Centre.

Depending on the findings of the study and ministry approval, this would support the Group Health Centre in developing a consolidated, modern facility supporting a team-based care model.  

This will improve operational efficiencies, enhance patient experience, and ensure the Group Health Centre is positioned to meet future health system demands.

“We are excited to embark on this important project, as a new building is a key element to our vision of providing patients with the best possible healthcare experience,” said Alex Lambert, CEO of Group Health Centre.

Continuing to increase investments in health care is part of the government's plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care.

This plan provides patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to live healthy and a health care system that is sustainable for generations to come.

Some key provincial investments at Group Health Centre include:

  • $1.6 million to expand Willow Avenue site (NOHFC)
  • $744,000 Vascular Intervention Program
  • $550,000 for Clinical Learning Centre (NOHFC)
  • $500,000 for elevator upgrades
  • $216,000 annual funding for cardiac rehabilitation program
  • Lead organization – Sault Ste. Marie Health Link