Female donors contribute to renovate Women’s Health Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto

Four years ago, a committee of female donors set out to raise $4.5 million to renovate the Women’s Health Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, an aging facility that in no way reflected the quality of care provided.
But they didn’t stop there. The committee decided to also take on the lobby, which was an equally poor reflection of the expertise in the building at 61 Queen St. E., not just in women’s health, but in diabetes, eye care and more.
The committee led by longtime hospital supporter Mary Cassaday, actually raised $6.3 million. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in the lobby in October for donors and hospital staff, especially those moving into their 13,500 square feet of renovated quarters on the fourth and fifth floors.
In addition to the all-female fundraising campaign, three architects from Diamond + Schmitt Architects were women, as was the hospital’s project manager, Cathy Bidwell.
The renovations bring the entire Women’s Health Care team together in one location, but they were designed primarily with the patient in mind, Bidwell said.
The centre now offers “one-stop shopping,” where the patient will remain in bigger examining rooms while the various health-care professionals come to her. There are also bigger ultrasound rooms, with space for partners and relatives to be present.
“We have always taken great pride in the care we provide. We work hard to ensure every patient leaves knowing that we’ve met their individual needs,” said Cathy Beatty, who has been a Women’s Health Centre nurse for 15 years. “But in our previous space, it was very hard. The space wasn’t welcoming, it was very tired looking and it was becoming more and more difficult to maintain patient privacy because we were literally tripping over each other.”
The new centre has one floor devoted to obstetrics and the other to gynecology. Dr. Guylaine LeFebvre, chief of obstetrics and gynecology, said this means that the middle-age woman who has been dealing with the challenges of infertility for the past 10 years will not have to sit beside the young pregnant woman waiting for her prenatal check-up.
The gynecology floor has the only pelvic health unit in Toronto within a hospital setting so that women have access to primary and secondary care. It also has dedicated facilities for colposcopy.
Hospital CEO Dr. Bob Howard noted that momentum from the campaign to renovate the Women’s Health Centre and lobby led to the creation of another volunteer committee to raise funds for a chair in women’s health. That committee was led by Pat Lace and Jane Humphreys, members of the board of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation.
Foundation President Alayne Metrick said the committee has raised $3 million – three times their original goal – for a chair that “will retain and attract the expertise we need to share our skills and help women not just in Toronto, but across Canada and the world.”
St. Michael’s specializes in high-risk pregnancies and serves the inner city population, including at-risk women. It has the only obstetrical trauma unit in the Greater Toronto Area. It is the only hospital in Canada performing robotic myomectomies, a minimally invasive technique for removing uterine fibroids. It also pioneered the use of an infant passport, a portable health record and information booklet for young pregnant homeless or other marginalized women, which offers incentives to seek prenatal care.
In addition to the renovations to the Women’s Health Centre, the building is undergoing a green makeover. Four solar panels were recently installed on the roof to heat the building’s water tanks.
Lisa VanLint, project coordinator for the hospital’s greening initiative, said the solar panels are part of an energy project that includes:
new, high-efficient motors for heating circulation
replacing existing lightly with high efficient and lower wattage lights. The lighting is now 35 per cent more effective and will save $40,000 a year in electrical costs
plans to reconfigure the building’s automation system, which monitors and controls such things as air temperature settings, lighting, fire alarms and elevators. The system will operate more efficiently and take into account the time of day or year and how many people are in the building