Durham municipalities compete to be site of region’s new hospital

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Two weeks after Lakeridge Health announced a roadmap to expanded healthcare, Durham Region municipalities are putting their best foot forward in competing for a brand-new hospital.

President and CEO of Lakeridge Health, Cynthia Davis, says it’s all part of a master plan that will prepare them for health care in the next 25 years.

“This is the beginning step in a journey of trying to think about health care delivery for the Durham Region,” says Davis.

Now the idea will be to help select the perfect site within Durham Region. What city it will be located in is still up in the air, leaving Durham mayors eager to make their pitches.

Three city mayors have voiced interest in being picked for the new hospital: Oshawa, Whitby and Pickering. They’ve already launched a hospital task force, working hard to put their name up front.

But with Oshawa already having an acute care centre that serves their whole area, it’s something that Whitby’s mayor thinks will give them an edge.

“Whitby and North Durham do not have a full-service acute-care hospital,” says Mitchell.

The town has already slated a 160-acre site as a potential development site, located near highways 407 and 412, both of which being major arteries connecting to other nearby cities. And with massive population growth expected over the next decade, Whitby, Ont., mayor Don Mitchell says nearby health care is a priority.

“Most of that growth is in the north part, north of highway 7. So it’s critical to service the existing growth and the future growth,” he says.

Oshawa mayor Dan Carter, meanwhile, says his city has a proven track record of providing great health care. Being home to Lakeridge Health Oshawa and a state of the art cancer centre, he believes a new health care campus belongs in Oshawa.

“I’m a great believer that the City of Oshawa has the right partnerships, the right location. and a great mix of what the future of healthcare should look like,” Carter said.

Oshawa won’t disclose exactly which locations have been selected, but say three are being considered. One is situated along Simcoe Road, just North of Ontario Tech University and Durham College — a fact that Mayor Carter thinks should help them.

“I think a health care campus needs to have long-term care. It also has to have rehabilitation care, and has to be a place for caring and aging, But it also has to be a place of discovery and investment and innovation,” he says.

The hospital master plan is aiming for a need of at least 1,000 inpatient beds in the next 25 years, preparing for major growth in the area. Within that period of time, the plan says, Durham is set to double its population from 680,000 to 1.3M by 2050.

Because of increasing population in the north end, Pickering’s mayor says there’s a gap in care, forcing some of their residents to go outside of Durham.

“We know they are going into Markham Stouffville, we know that they are going into Centenary in Scarborough. and we shouldn’t have to do that,” he says.

“We’re right in the centre spot — a hole in the donut, if you will. We are ideally situated and meet one of three criteria, one of which is being located in a fast-growing population.”

This week, Lakeridge Health announced an independent expert panel that will help select the site. The panel is made up of individuals who have no ties to Durham Region. And though it could take years before a decision is made, there’s no doubt that mayors are excited to get going.

“Don’t be mistaken, Oshawa is going to win this one,” says Dan Carter.

“This is where they want this new location to be,” says Mayor Mitchell.

“Ultimately, there will be a respectful competition that will deliver the best possible outcomes,” says Mayor Ryan.

Although it’s a competition, Durham wins in bringing more health care to the region — something Oshawa’s mayor thinks is good for everyone.

“It brings the best out of us,” says Carter.

“I think it’s great that it has us all out competing for the investment.”

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