MANITOULIN – Ontario’s Ministry of Health has granted Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) to proceed to the fourth stage of its application to expand and renovate the emergency department (ED) at its Mindemoya hospital site, meaning the health centre can bypass the third stage as it prepares early this month to issue tenders for the work.
“The project is moving along very nicely and we’re getting very close. The ministry is working nicely and closely with us to ensure our initial (construction) timeline continues to be met,” said MHC VP of corporate support services and CFO Tim Vine at a hospital board meeting last week.
He explained to the board that the stages in the application are designed to gradually hone the project down to its finer details. MHC’s plans from the architects working on this file were more detailed than necessary for the stage three requirements, so the ministry has agreed to let the hospital jump straight to the fourth stage.
Hospital executives argued that they would not be able to get much more precise funding figures until it receives tenders from potential contractors, another factor that supported skipping the third application stage.
Mr. Vine said this means the hospital is close to its initial timeline targets.
MHC president and CEO Lynn Foster later explained to The Expositor that keeping on the original timelines was particularly important as MHC joins other Northeastern Ontario health providers in moving to the One Initiative. This is an electronic health information system that will ensure patient records are synchronized and held in one location for all health system users across Northeastern Ontario.
The conversion will involve installing Meditech Expanse in 24 acute care hospitals. This is the software that will operate the health information system, which is expected to go live after October 2022. Health Sciences North will host the system.
Switching to a new model will require adopting current working practices and procedures to align with the electronic system’s best practices. Ms. Foster explained that MHC was hoping to have its new Mindemoya ED in operation before the change-over so physicians have time to adjust to the new space and develop workflows before they adapt to the new system.
MHC is also undergoing accreditation next year, adding an additional element of urgency to the timeline. Construction is planned to begin in April and MHC executives hope the bulk of the work will be done by December of this year.
Board member Dennis McGregor shared concerns about the cost of construction materials because the COVID-19 pandemic has driven up supply costs for many contractors.
Mr. Vine said he was hopeful that contractors would offset increases in materials costs with slimmer profit margins, but said the tendering process would ultimately reveal that outcome.
MHC is still in its quiet fundraising period but will begin its public appeal for fundraising later in the year.