Building community ownership: A new way for hospitals to engage the public

By Sarah Hartwick

Building a new, modern health and research centre in the heart of Ottawa is about health care – and it’s about the community.

The Ottawa Hospital is in the early stages of planning a brand new health-care centre in the heart of the nation’s capital to replace its aging Civic Campus

Like the Civic before it, the new campus will be Eastern Ontario’s regional trauma centre, and will provide acute, specialized and complex care to the region’s 1.3 million residents.

Public involvement is essential in planning the new facility – it means stronger health outcomes, collaboration on publicly-accessible spaces, and integration into the community.

A key part of involving the public is the creation of the new Campus Engagement Group, which began meeting in 2018. This group will take a deep dive into issues like access and transportation, greenspace, parking and design, that have been consistently rated as most important by the public.

These issues are rooted in individual values and are too complex to solve using traditional consultation methods like town halls.

“The hospital has hit upon a great idea for getting the community more deeply involved in this project. As members of the Campus Engagement Group, we will have an opportunity to debate key issues facing the hospital and the community and to make our voices heard at the most senior levels of the organization. Together, we can find solutions that really work.” says group co-chair Paul Johanis, who is the current Chair of the Ottawa-based Greenspace Alliance.

The group’s 18 members includes community leaders from local neighbourhood associations and groups who advocate for seniors, greenspace, heritage, the Central Experimental Farm, patients, and people who have disabilities.

The group was created based on recommendations in the third-party engagement report Setting the Stage, Turning the Page. It will make recommendations to the hospital’s Board of Governors by deliberating, comparing perspectives and identifying possible compromises together.

The Campus Engagement Group is one of three ways the hospital is engaging the public on the new campus, alongside online activities and in-person events such as community town halls.

“Hospitals in the 21st century need to be integrated into their communities, and The Ottawa Hospital is fortunate to be part of a passionate community with leaders who want to be involved.” said Bernie Etzinger, the hospital’s Chief Engagement Steward. “Their work on the Campus Engagement Group will be critical in making sure we build the best possible health-care facility.”

To learn more about The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus, visit

Sarah Hartwick is a Communications Coordinator at The Ottawa Hospital.