The long search is over.
An 83-acre site at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Innisfil Beach Road will be the future site of the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s (RVH) new south campus in Innisfil.
An announcement was made today with RVH officials, local politicians and other local dignitaries at the site, which was unanimously endorsed by RVH’s board of directors and is still a decade away from opening.
RVH president and CEO Janice Skot got emotional as she made the announcement. She later said that, despite current happenings associated with the pandemic, the push for the new hospital campus continued.
“Given the growth in this area and the crucial need for health care for south Simcoe residents, I am over the moon,” Skot said. “We started the south campus project work before the pandemic and once it got rolling, it was important to keep it going.
"The team has been working very hard and we really needed to make this announcement today," she added.
RVH had searched a 225-square-kilometre area in Innisfil and south-end Barrie to find the right location for its south campus, just outside of Stroud.
The location, adjacent to the Innisfil civic campus and the town's recreation centre, is also across the road from the Rizzardo Health & Wellness Centre, where RVH currently operates a variety of outpatient clinics.
Skot says she understands Innisfil residents want a hospital in the community “yesterday,” but that it takes time to find the right spot and get the shovels in the ground.
“Ten years ago, we only had three family physicians in Innisfil and none of them were taking new patients. Look how far we’ve come,” she said.
The hospital president continued by saying the first phase of the south campus will be a health hub opened on the site by 10 years from now.
“It will be focused on outpatient care, day surgery and an urgent care centre. It will expand over time into developing a full service, acute care hospital within 20 years,” said Skot. “That hospital, at its maturity, will be about the size of what RVH is today and will see more than 350,000 patient visits each year.”
In January 2020, a proposed plan approved by RVH’s board of directors looked to double the size of the current Georgian Drive campus in north-end Barrie through significant renovations and expansion, including construction of a new nine-storey inpatient tower.
Hospital officials say the north and south campuses will be completely interdependent, adding one can’t proceed without the other. They say services within the two-campus plan are integrated, not duplicated.
Redevelopment of the north-Barrie campus would happen over 10 years and would enable RVH to introduce new programs, expand surgical services and add up to 240 beds, easing hallway medicine and bringing the total number of beds on the current campus to 656.
The idea for a south campus isn't new and has been on the radar since the early 2000s.
Back in April 2018, RVH officials updated city councillors about ongoing plans to build a secondary health-care facility in the south end, either in Innisfil or south-end Barrie, in the coming years.
The new Innisfil campus will look to address the medical needs in a growing south-end Barrie, as well as in Innisfil and Bradford West Gwillimbury.
“We are thrilled that Innisfil has been selected as the home of RVH’s south campus, bringing health care closer to home for residents of Innisfil and south Simcoe,” said Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin. “We are excited to work with RVH on this endeavour as we continue to support the health and wellness of our growing community.”
The population in Barrie, Bradford and Innisfil is expected to increase by more than 400,000 by 2041 and with that comes more strain on health-care services.
Carl Eisses is part of the Eisses family who previously owned the land the new hospital campus will be built on.
Eisses said he never imagined the family’s land would be going to such great use.
“This is what you hope for in situations like this, that you’ll give something back,” he said. “We’ve been in the area since 1960 and had this land for 15 to 20 years. This is a really good day for everyone.”
Broad community consultation was foundational to RVH’s planning and, since 2018, hospital officials have logged more than 30,000 interactions with the public. RVH consulted with diverse and vulnerable populations, Indigenous and francophone partners, patients and families, staff, physicians and volunteers.
RVH’s ‘street team’ also spoke with residents at farmers’ markets, hospital waiting rooms, community events, grocery stores, and even at the beach.
With Wednesday’s location announcement, RVH begins Phase 2 of its engagement plan with site-specific consultation. Residents can share their thoughts by going to RVHPlanourfuture.ca and learn more by attending the virtual community listening session on Monday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m., by clicking here.