Five years after Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) opened a $450-million expansion that doubled its size, the health centre has now begun planning for the future. That includes a south campus to meet healthcare needs in a rapidly-growing Innisfil and South Barrie.

The planning process is being overseen by the board of directors’ newly-formed capital planning committee.

“Planning for an additional facility is a 15 to 20 year process,” says Doug Frost, committee chairperson. “To meet the healthcare needs of our region in the future, we must begin the planning now.”

Of note, in 2009, a 50-acre parcel of land, at 6th Line and Yonge Street, in Innisfil, was donated to RVH by the Cortel Group.

But before expansion approvals are given, provincial government requirements include undertaking two comprehensive planning studies – master programming and master planning – to explore, in detail, the services a hospital should provide in the future, the preferred location and infrastructure planning. The RVH board of directors recently approved Toronto-based, Diamond Schmitt Architects, as lead consultants for the project.

The initial focus of the work will be on the “south campus” including the location and land assessment, as well as data collection and analysis to identify healthcare needs and service gaps. The process will include community consultation.

Also, the future use of the existing facility or “north campus,” including the unfinished, shelled space that was built as part of the expansion will be assessed.

Since opening the expansion in 2012, RVH has grappled with surging patient volumes. The health centre has experienced surge conditions for the past year and, on most days, every bed is full. In fact, the medical/surgical occupancy rate at RVH is consistently over 115 per cent and recently hit 135 per cent.

“Those surging volumes mean RVH must care for patients in unconventional spaces, including hallways,” said Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO, in a news release. “And when there are no beds available, wait times grow.

“With RVH’s current 40-acre site almost fully utilized, it’s imperative that we plan for both the short and long-term future and ensure area residents have easy access to quality health care.”

RVH will also partner with the Town of Innisfil to lease space and provide some health services in the new Community Health Hub, which is scheduled to open in early-2019, next to the recreation complex at Yonge St. and Innisfil Beach Rd.

“RVH’s Capital Planning Committee is pursuing this critical issue in the right way, by considering the big picture and the future healthcare needs of our region,” added Jeff Lehman, City of Barrie mayor.