by Eleanor Riley

Photo: Eleanor Riley
Photo: Eleanor Riley

Ottawa-West Nepean MP John Baird announced Nov. 3 that six percent of the Central Experimental Farm is being transferred to the National Capital Commission (NCC) for the construction of a new super hospital.

This section will be held in trust until it can be leased out at $1 per year for 99 years to The Ottawa Hospital.

Announcement of the transfer came as a surprise to community groups in the area. The Friends of the Farm, a volunteer group that promotes The Central Experimental Farm, were not consulted on the land transfer, and they feel the farm is being surrounded by increasing intensification of existing development.

The group wants to be involved in the planning process going forward and want a thorough conversation about the implications of this development. Friends of the Farm President Chris Jones said on CBC Ottawa Morning that it was “particularly concerning that a national historic site will be divided up without any debate.”

This is not a simple change of address for the Civic Campus. It is a complete transformation of its mission. When The Ottawa Hospital CEO Dr. Jack Kitts spoke to the Ottawa Citizen on Nov. 3 he stated the new “super hospital” will specialize in tertiary and quaternary care complex transplants, surgeries and experimental treatments.

That doesn’t mean the new location will be bigger, or even the same size as the current campus. Kitts went on to state in the same interview that the new site will be a small-scale research hospital aimed at attracting “super star” nurses, doctors and researchers from around the world. The primary and secondary care the hospital now provides, like day clinics and the vital emergency services,would be offloaded onto the community once the new location is built.

At present there is no plan to expand the Queensway Carleton or the Montfort Hospitals, though Dr. Kitts assumes these expansions will take place, saying that  “if things were to work out the way I’d envision it, the new campus may be a bit smaller, because there’d be more expansion at the Queensway and the Montfort and the other community hospitals and in the community.”

It is unclear how the loss of the Civic Campus as it exists now would impact patients in Ottawa, but according to Canadian Institute for Health Information the Montfort Hospital already has one of the highest average ER wait-times in Canada at5.9 hours.Offloading more patients on already overloaded emergency rooms may increase already lengthy wait times.

This early in the planning process it is hard to see how the new campus benefits the community. Ottawans stand to lose both access to a primary and secondary care facility that provides vital services and a section of a heritage site all without due consultation. The new hospital may attract superstar nurses and doctors, but that will be scant consolation to the people waiting longer in the emergency rooms of hospitals across the city.

This article first appeared in the Leveller, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2014).