One hospital’s redevelopment journey

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Anyone following the news knows many hospitals across the country are in varying stages of redevelopment.  It’s no different in Winnipeg, with many hospitals renewing buildings and QuickCare clinics springing up. Here at Misericordia Health Centre we’re in the midst of creating a new health complex in the heart of our city.

Every capital redevelopment project has its own challenges and triumphs. CEOs and project managers always have to battle budget uncertainties and deadlines. Misericordia’s story isn’t about budget or timing: it’s about surviving and thriving in the ever-changing world of healthcare.

In the not too distant past, the early 1990s, the Manitoba government began changing its health care strategy from a multiple-site acute-care focus to centres of excellence with more community-based health services. Misericordia, sitting on a 400-bed upgrade plan, needed to evolve or face the possibility of permanent closure due to redundant acute-care programming and aging buildings – some dating back to the early 1900s.

Misericordia responded by doing what it does best: coming up with innovative, invaluable health programs to meet the needs of the communities we serve – while remaining faithful to the Mission of our founding Misericordia Sisters. We developed a business proposal to consolidate all ophthalmology services in the city from four sites to a one-site program at Misericordia, creating an Eye Care Centre of Excellence. Today, close to 11,000 eye surgeries are performed annually and more than 25,000 are assessed and treated.

We converted from an emergency department to an Urgent Care Centre – the first in Canada. Visits today exceed 43,000 annually. We created Health Links-Info Santé, the first provincial telephone nurse-based triage system in Canada. This one program evolved into the Provincial Health Contact Centre, with 30 calling programs and upwards of 600,000 calls annually.

Community support over the years has also been invaluable, demonstrating how Misericordia is a critical health care provider not just in the larger health system, but in its own neighbourhood.

The redevelopment of Misericordia has been a long and winding journey with many twists, turns and setbacks in over 30 years.

I think I have enough historical redevelopment plans to wallpaper all of Misericordia. It’s all history now as cranes and construction crews are on site and our new Maryland health complex is taking shape!

As much as we were excited about having a new building, it was incredibly difficult to close the carved wooden doors of our historical St. Luke’s Chapel after 94 years. A formal transfer ceremony – from St. Luke’s to our interim chapel – was celebrated with staff and community members. We did salvage frescos and stained glass windows with the hopes of incorporating them into our new permanent chapel.

One unique aspect of our redevelopment project is the rooftop garden and solarium we built on top of one of our existing buildings. It’s the first rooftop garden at a hospital in Winnipeg, and maybe farther afield! We knew with our redevelopment project that the green space our long-term care residents enjoy would be engulfed with construction equipment. Creating a 7th-floor rooftop garden meant we’d still have a peaceful area for residents with access to fresh air. The panoramic views of the city and the Assiniboine River are a bonus.

Our new Maryland building is on time for substantial completion this winter, with occupancy in the spring. Misericordia is a leader in healthy aging through compassion, innovation and excellence. That’s our Mission. And the programs in our new building reflect our Mission! We’re creating a new purpose-built home for our Buhler Eye Care Centre and introducing PRIME – a health centre for seniors.

PRIME is designed to keep an aging population healthy and in their own homes. Available to seniors over the age of 65, PRIME’s range of health-care professionals – doctor and nurse practitioner, therapists, nursing staff, social workers, pharmacist, recreation facilitators and more – means seniors will have all their health-care needs addressed under one roof.

Our new Maryland building and the rooftop garden are Phase 1 of Misericordia’s redevelopment.  Phase 2 includes demolishing a 107-year-old building to create a spacious atrium and a new chapel to rival our former St. Luke’s Chapel.  As a faith-based health centre, a chapel is a strong symbol of our compassionate Mission and an essential icon of who we are and what we do.

We’re working on finalizing funding for Phase 2.  But that’s another redevelopment story.