When Toronto East General opens a new tower in 2020, patients will find more private beds, better clinics and diagnostic facilities, a less congested entrance off Sammon Avenue, and two levels of underground parking.
Rising eight stories on what is now a parking lot at Sammon and Coxwell, the tower is the core of a $300 million renovation. It will replace two outdated wings, built in 1944, that are scheduled for demolition next year.
Engineers began test drilling the site a few weeks ago, but full construction won’t begin until late 2016.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” says hospital CEO Rob Devitt, who stood under the engineers’ giant auger alongside Ontario health minister Deb Matthews on April 16.
Devitt and Matthews spoke to a crowd of students from the neighbouring RH McGregor Elementary School, who yelled and waved flags every time either one said the word “hospital.”
“For those of you in Grade 1, we’ll be cutting the ribbon when you’re in Grade 7,” Devitt said.
“It takes that amount of time because it’s such a big building, and it has to be built carefully so it’s the highest quality building that we can have.”
Devitt told reporters the hospital will have about the same number of beds after the renovation, but it will be able to take in more patients because nearly three-quarters of the 218 new beds will be in private rooms.
Many beds go empty in the hospital’s current layout, Devitt explained, because shared rooms often have to be restricted to just one patient to control infection.
Overnight patients will stay in the tower’s six upper floors, including those undergoing surgery and rehabilitation, cardiac or mental health care.
Day patients will find many of the hospital’s busiest clinics grouped in the tower’s first and second floors. These include the arthritis and endocrine clinics, as well as clinics for gestational diabetes, hand and plastics, EEG testing, neurology, general surgery, and medical education.
Devitt said the hospital will actually use less of its property when the tower goes up, allowing for better traffic flow and more green space on the grounds.
The main entrance will move from busy Coxwell to Sammon Avenue, with a deeper, U-shaped roadway for drop-offs and a taxi stand. And by 2023, a planted courtyard will open along the hospital’s west side.
Minister Matthews noted that the province has invested $28 million at TEGH since 2007, including a $10 million expansion of its ER and clinics for haematology and oncology.
A hospital spokesperson said no construction contracts have been awarded yet, but many are expected this year.
She noted that nearby residents may see workers going in and out of the old wings wearing protective gear, given that the 1944 buildings likely contain asbestos.
After the speeches, AMEC engineer Michael Salter stayed by the drill rig to take questions from Grade 1 and 2 students from RH McGregor while their older schoolmates went inside to hear about unconventional careers in healthcare.
Salter showed the students the “spoon” attachment used to draw up soil samples, and explained why engineers have to test the soil and groundwater below the site of a big building like the TEGH tower.
“Are there any sharks, piranhas, or squids in the water?” asked one girl in Grade 2.
No, Salter reported, so far the site seems free of aquatic creatures.