Need for a new hospital in Orillia: ‘Our ideal timeline is now,’ says OSMH President & CEO

Faster population growth adds urgency to move project forward

Orillia’s hospital is landlocked with not a lot of room to grow.

What is growing is the population of the Orillia area.

In fact, recent census data shows the community is growing much faster than the provincial average, and Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) President and CEO Carmine Stumpo says that data has prompted much of the most recent activity to push the province to allow OSMH to move to Stage 2 of its development plan.

Earlier this week, the hospital issued a news release stating that for the first time in history, OSMH past Board Chairs assembled together as one unified group to call on the province to speed up the progress on a new hospital in Orillia.

Stumpo is gratified by what he says is the incredible support from staff, physicians, patients, caregivers, the community and businesses.

“We are at the point now where we have submitted our master plan to the ministry, and we need to move forward to the next stage, which would be Stage 2 of the planning process,” Stumpo says. “This will allow us to develop a more comprehensive and functional plan that starts to outline the details of what elements of hospital services will need to be rebuilt.”

That includes scouting for a new property to build on.

The hospital is seeking a $3 million planning grant from the province along with approval to move the project to the next level.

With the added growth and complexity of cases coming through the emergency department, Stumpo says they have had to repurpose older space to create new beds to enhance capacity to manage the regular flow of patients.

“We are managing, but we are essentially working at or above capacity all the time.”

Stumpo was asked to envision what a new Orillia hospital will look like.

“We need to have our emergency services, our ICU, our emergency department resized and repurposed to reflect the growth in the community, so we have adequate space and infrastructure to take care of our increasing numbers.”

There is another area that would translate into a more ideal hospital stay for the patient.

“Currently, 75% of our beds are multiple patient rooms with a shared washroom. That is not the standard across the province for new hospitals,” he explains. “We would like to see a move to the standard across the province, which is single-occupancy rooms with a dedicated bathroom.”

With projected growth in the Orillia area exceeding the provincial average, Stumpo says the hospital will have to revisit the needs of the community, and not just for the next five to 10 years, but for generations to come.

The tab for a new hospital is approximately $800 million. Stumpo says the number is from earlier stages of planning and will change over time.

Asked to put a timeline on getting a shovel in the ground, Stumpo is matter-of-fact.

“Our ideal timeline is as soon as possible because this is something we need. Today, we need more capacity. We don’t have any extra room to move into.”

Stumpo would like to work through the next several stages to the final approval process that doesn’t take 10 years.

“We believe the strength of our proposal is the excellent service we provide to the community. We have a very busy emergency department, a very busy critical care service, and many regional programs,” he says. “But it’s the growth that is really heightening the urgency to move this forward.”