The Children’s Hospital may no longer be a part of McMaster University in the future. In its latest capital plan, Hamilton Health Sciences has revealed its intentions to close the current McMaster Children’s Hospital while constructing a new hospital in its place near the Hamilton General, located downtown.
The capital plan is required by the Ministry of Health from every hospital in Ontario. It is used to assess the prospective long-term growth and patient care that are required as well as making recommendations on the kinds of facilities and forms that are needed to deliver that caliber of care.
In the case of the Children’s Hospital, difficulties accommodating the large number of patients are the main factor driving the closing of the current location. The hospital serves a growing community of 2.5 million people and is the fastest growing children’s hospital in the province.
“The facility that [the Children’s Hospital] is located in now may not be the best suited for that growth. So we are creating a vision based the patient growth and the kind of care we will need to provide from Hamilton Health Sciences,” explained Aaron Levo, vice-president (Communications and Public Affairs) at HHS.
“One of the questions we are asking ourselves is whether we can do it in the existing facilities or whether there are benefits to the community if we were to build new facilities for some of these programs,” he added.
The plan to close the McMaster facility while constructing a new building more centrally in Hamilton is also in part due to feasibility.
“We cannot replicate all [our programs] across the community—we have to do it in a focused way that is sustainable, but at the same time, we know that people need access to healthcare,” said Levo.
While this remains an early vision from HHS and actions are still “yet to be determined”, Rob MacIsaac, CEO of HHS, has aspirations for these changes to take place over the next 20 years.
“The Children’s Hospital is the fastest-growing children’s hospital in the province… we will for sure run out of room on the current site,” he said in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator regarding the long-term vision.
Although it is unlikely that these changes in the next few decades will affect any students currently enrolled at Mac, the notion of the Children’s Hospital closing certainly brings mixed reactions, particularly among students currently involved with the hospital on campus.
“For McMaster students wanting to go into healthcare, this is our first glimpse into what it could be like. It would take away from our learning experiences, and our chances to bond with our community,” said Laura Sapiano, a second-year Life Sciences student.
On the other hand, as an anonymous second-year Integrated Sciences student argues, the relocation effects on students may be negligible.
“Student access to involvement opportunities is not the point of the hospital and should not even be considered when deciding whether to open, close, or relocate a building,” the student said.
And while the long-term vision for HHS no longer includes the sharing of campus buildings, Levo affirms that the university will remain affiliated with Hamilton Health Sciences in many other ways.
“The ties between the university and the hospital are much deeper than the facilities we have and we are incredibly proud of our affiliation with the Faculty of Medicine. It’s an essential part of who we are as a hospital and we will continue to find ways to nurture and grow that connection between the hospital and the university.”