The first major hurdle towards the creation of a new Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital was overcome on Nov. 3, as a portion of land at the Experimental Farm was set aside for construction.
A 24.3 hectare tract owned by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was transferred to the National Capital Commission to accommodate the next chapter of the Civic Campus, which has resided on the north side of Carling Avenue since 1924. Constrained by a lack of land on its existing site, the transfer would allow the hospital to proceed with its longterm plans.
The announcement was delivered by Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird, NCC chief executive Mark Kristmanson, and Ottawa Hospital president and CEO Dr. Jack Kitts.
"The development of a new Civic Campus is a cornerstone to the future of healthcare for the Ottawa community," said Dr. Kitts, calling the announcement a "landmark decision for the citizens of Ottawa and the Valley."
The hospital will have to co-ordinate any expansion with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and given the high cost of funding such a build, a new hospital won't be sprouting up on former farm land anytime soon. When it does, the city can expect not just a new hospital, but also a new teaching facility to train the next generation of doctors and nurses. Baird said by freeing up the land, the federal government has allowed the hospital to move forward with its plans to revamp healthcare for a changing society.
"We are addressing the new demographic reality in which we live, and the need for a new world-class medical facility for the capital," said Baird.
Because the new campus would be located within Experimental Farm borders, the NCC wants to ensure the hospital fits in with its surroundings.
"The NCC is committed to working with its partners to foster design excellence in a new campus that complements the distinct heritage character of the Central Experimental Farm," said Kristmanson, who said his organization recognized the need for a new facility in Ottawa.
Kitts said in an interview that the Civic, which currently houses a trauma unit, would like to shift its focus towards treating the acutely sick and injured, while having other hospitals handle less-serious health issues.
"We would work with the Local Health Integration Network and Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to see what less-intensive activity could be done at other hospitals," said Kitts. "It is feasible that the hospital could be smaller than it is now, or the same size, given the population increase."
The timeline of the project is hazy at this early point, but Kitts said his experience tells him a completion date wouldn't be less than 10 years down the road.
"Hopefully not beyond 15 years," he said, adding that community consultation will play a large role in the planning process.
Once completed, the current campus will be completely vacated, leaving a large tract of desirable land close to downtown and a number of amenities. The hospital would have to enter into discussions with the city to determine what the best course of action was for offloading the lands.