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The Ontario Ministry of Health on Tuesday announced a $38.8 million investment to expand UHN – one of the largest planning grants in Ontario history.
Christine Elliott, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, was at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) – one of her final events before she retires from public office – to announce $34 million towards an 11-storey New Patient Tower at the hospital. The remaining $4.8 million investment is for multiple expansions at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, including a new unit for the Stem Cell Transplant Program.
The New Patient Tower will add more beds and increase operating room capacity by 20 per cent over the next 10 years – something that is desperately needed with an estimated 21 million patient services, from surgeries to cancer screenings, delayed across Ontario due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UHN alone has more than 3,400 unscheduled surgical cases on its surgical backlog list as of February 2022.
"This investment will bring the New Patient Tower on the Toronto Western site to reality, which will benefit patients and their families by providing a state-of-the art facility to enable the best care," UHN President and CEO Dr. Kevin Smith said at the announcement in TWH's Bathurst and Nassau Streets parking lot, where the tower will be built. "Our surgical teams deserve the best facilities so that they can provide the best care, research and education available anywhere in the world."
The New Patient Tower will consist of 20 new operating rooms (ORs), including three new image-guided ORs for complex neurosurgical and spinal procedures, as well as several other new units and departments, such as a pre‐operative care unit, post-anaesthetic care unit, medical device reprocessing department and pharmacy.
"Investing in a New Patient Tower at UHN's Toronto Western Hospital is another way our government is building a stronger, more resilient healthcare system for all Ontarians," Minister Elliott said. "This investment will ensure patients have access to enhanced surgical services and can access high-quality care for generations to come."
Brian Porter, Chair of UHN's Board of Trustees and CEO of Scotiabank, was also at Tuesday's announcement. He acknowledged these projects – which have been in the planning stages for many years – have come a long way "from a proposed internal redevelopment to a truly spectacular vision for the future of surgery and the care provided by our teams.
"Nobody wants a surgery or a stem cell transplant – but we need to know that teams are here if we need them," he said. "This investment gives confidence in the commitment to having the best care for people when it is needed."
With parts of the TWH building 100 years old, its aging infrastructure already results in regular incidents and surgical delays – something Dr. Fayez Quereshy, Vice President, Clinical at UHN – and a surgeon at TWH – knows all too well.
"While my colleagues in surgery certainly have an affection for the current operating rooms at Toronto Western – because this is where we have done the best work of our careers – there is no doubt that we need new operating rooms," Dr. Quereshy said. "This planning grant will allow us to bring our dreams of an ideal setting for surgical patients to reality."
The investment for the Princess Margaret will be used to plan multiple expansions, including a new 14-bed inpatient unit for the Stem Cell Transplant Program, which delivered 428 transplants last year. The investment will expand the Malignant Haematology Day Unit to provide outpatient care and expand the ambulatory Malignant Haemotology clinics to create dedicated nurse-led initiatives such as telephone triage, drop in assessments and high-quality virtual care.
"Every day we see the benefits of stem cell transplants for cancer patients," said Dr. Keith Stewart, Vice President, Cancer Program at UHN. "This investment gives us the opportunity to serve more patients with a lifesaving procedure – one which can cure and extend life."
With the investment announced, all that's left is for UHN to move forward with the design and build of these new facilities – a challenge eagerly accepted by the Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations (FM-PRO) Department, which leads all renovations and new builds at UHN sites, while working closely with clinical teams.
"We have a tremendous team behind this project," said Ron Swail, Vice President, FM-PRO. "From Planning & Integration, who plan and design projects, to Redevelopment, who lead construction, and our Operational teams, who run and support the sites, we can't wait to bring this vision to life and help our clinical teams further the incredible patient care delivered across UHN."