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Scarborough Health Network would sell its General or Birchmount sites

Renewal options pair Centenary with another campus by 2031

Scarborough-Mirror Mar 29, 2019  Mike Adler 

To remake itself over the next decade, Scarborough Health Network wants to rebuild and expand at least one of its three campuses while one or two of the others are sold off.

The hospital is giving itself two or three months to choose a preferred option among three it unveiled at a community meeting on March 27.

SHN will hand those options, along with best guesses on costs, to the province, which will take months to consider each option and choose one.

The board of SHN — born of a 2016 merger between the Scarborough Hospital and Rouge Valley Health System’s Centenary site — caused a furor in January when it approved closure of in-patient pediatric and obstetric wards at its Birchmount campus.

Controversy over the decision and what it means for Birchmount continues, but could be overshadowed by which path the hospital chooses for its future.

All three scenarios include the Centenary and one other campus — the Birchmount, the General, or an expansive new site at least 40 acres in size.

None of the options show both the General and Birchmount remaining as part of the hospital past 2034.

All existing SHN buildings need to be torn down “to the studs” and rebuilt, David Graham, executive vice-president and chief administrative officer, told around 80 residents and hospital staff at the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services.

Centenary’s larger land mass allows for expansion, but rebuilding the General on Lawrence Avenue while continuing services there would be the hardest scenario of the three, said Graham.

Land occupied by Rosalie Hall, a charity next door which houses and provides resources for young mothers, “would be required” for this option, he added.

The Birchmount, meanwhile, will have its emergency department expanded over the next few years. Even if SHN decides to discard the campus, said CEO Elizabeth Buller, the department “will be there until we have new sites approved and up and running in Scarborough.”

For the first time, Buller said Ontario’s Health Ministry, though still supporting emergency department projects at Birchmount and Centenary, is unwilling to fund full replacement of the General campus’ six-decade-old operating suites, “given it would cost $300 million.”

Major campus construction, it’s hoped, would happen between 2026 and 2031, leaving Scarborough with 1,200 hospital beds instead of the current 800.

A provincial expert panel in 2015 supported building a “comprehensive” new campus in Scarborough, but where one could be built is unknown.

Mike Del Grande, a former Agincourt councillor and a Toronto Scarborough Hospital director from 2005 to 2011, said he couldn’t think of a possible location north of the 401. “You’d have to buy Woodside Square,” he suggested.

Del Grande, also skeptical the province would give SHN $2 billion to rebuild, asked Graham what will happen to Birchmount if one of the options without it were chosen.

“You would dispose of the site,” and use proceeds to help finance the plan, Graham said.

Dr. Amir Janmohammed, Medical Staff Association president, said SHN staff, who reviewed the options at internal town halls, are excited at the prospect of new facilities.

“With your input, we can approach the ministry and the politicians and say we are united on one vision of health care facilities in Scarborough,” he said.


Some at the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS) called for a fourth option including all three existing campuses, or said they’d support Option 3 (Centenary and a new campus) only if that campus is in North Scarborough.

Jim Karygiannis, councillor for Agincourt, said he would continue his campaign to save the Birchmount. “If these guys are thinking of selling this hospital to developers, the local councillor is going to go ballistic,” he pledged.