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New hospital planned in Waterloo Region

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Planning is underway for a new hospital in the Region of Waterloo.

Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's General Hospital announced the development project on Wednesday.

“This is a really a generational project for this region, both in size and in impact,” said Grand River Hospital President and CEO Ron Gagnon. “It is really exciting that we are building off of a decades-long partnership between the two hospitals to take this next step to help reinforce and build a Region of Waterloo health system.”

The hospitals said they've submitted a joint proposal to the Ontario government after consulting with staff, the community and health system partners like Cambridge Memorial Hospital and the KW4 Ontario Health Team.

That proposal includes details on constructing a new, state-of-the-art hospital in Kitchener-Waterloo with around 1,200 beds, as well as plans to repurpose the current location of Grand River Hospital as an ambulatory and urgent care centre. Grand River Hospital's Freeport Campus would be modernized and expanded for rehabilitation services.

"Most new hospitals today have all private rooms for patients," explained Gagnon. "That is nowhere near the case between our facilities."

Both Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's General Hospital are also hoping to bring in new services so patients don't have to travel out of the region for specialized care.

"There's a number of services we are looking to bring to Kitchener-Waterloo, and the Region of Waterloo, where there are gaps now," said Sherri Ferguson, the interim president at St. Mary's General Hospital. "One that really comes to mind is neurology and neurosurgery."

Officials said the reality of the small, aging and cramped buildings became apparent as healthcare workers dealt with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two and half years.

"Realizing just how old, just how crammed and just how small our facilities are compared to what we need today, much less tomorrow," said Gagnon.

“We are two years shy of our 100th anniversary and between the two of us we have parts of our buildings that are 50 years old or plus,” said Ferguson. “So there’s no question the need for new hospitals within our region are absolutely critical.”

This announcement follows the Ontario government's promise to invest $5 million into the planning process.

As for a where and when the hospital will be built, officials say it’s much too early to make that decision, but they are looking at sites with 50 to 60 acres of land.

Projects like this typically take between 10 to 15 years to complete.

The hospitals have launched a website called "Future of Care Together" which will share the latest news on the hospital and collect feedback from the public. However they don't expect any major updates for another year, until the provincial government makes a decision whether they can move on to the next stage of the planning process.

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