Former Grace site to become urgent care centre under mega-hospital plan

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell

A stand-alone emergency medical centre will be built on the former Grace Hospital site as part of a proposed master plan for the new mega-hospital that will serve Windsor and Essex County, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project.

The 80,000-square-foot, four-storey centre is part of a plan to be officially unveiled Thursday. The site selected for the new mega-hospital will replace Windsor Regional Hospital’s campuses on Ouellette Avenue and Tecumseh Road East.

“I think the key statement (in the pending announcement) is: one system serving Windsor and Essex County,” said one source, explaining the mega-hospital will be part of a complete overhaul of local health care.

“Currently, or in the past, we’ve had health-care organizations that aren’t always connected. This (plan) is more efficient and more effective.”

The plan was submitted to the Ministry of Health a month ago. It’s hoped a decision could come as early as next year.

It is expected the mega-hospital will be ready to open seven to eight years after final approval is given.

Several sources said the satellite emergency medical centre on the Grace site — being referred to as an urgent care centre — will breathe new life into the downtown Windsor neighbourhood. The former hospital building became an eyesore in the nine years it remained abandoned after its closure in 2004. It was finally demolished in the spring of 2013 and the property has sat vacant since.

The just over six acres of land at the corner of University and Crawford avenues is owned by the city. Details of how Windsor Regional Hospital will acquire the property will be announced Thursday.

“That neighbourhood has been through a lot,” a source said. The plan would bring “health care back to a neighbourhood that’s had a rich history of it.”

The urgent care centre will be a key component in efforts to relieve the burden on the emergency room at the new mega-hospital. The plan calls for the centre to be opened before the mega-hospital is completed and the emergency rooms at Windsor Regional’s Ouellette and Tecumseh Road campuses are closed.

The concept is based on a similar operation at Queensway Health Centre in Etobicoke, sources said.

“It’s been very successful at relieving pressure on the hospital seven to 10 kilometres away,” one source said. “It’ll reduce wait times.”

It’s expected to handle 30,000 patients annually when it first opens, but has the capacity to eventually handle 50,000.

It’s scheduled to be open 18 hours a day, but the hours could be extended if required.

On average, 37,900 patients with less severe and non-life threatening issues visit Windsor Regional’s two emergency departments annually. Patient studies have shown 71 per cent of those patients live within 10 km of the Grace site.

The urgent care centre will be part of Windsor Regional’s operations and will be staffed by the hospital’s physicians and nurses, medical sources said.

It will handle such medical issues as respiratory illnesses, abdominal issues, broken limbs and dislocations, cuts, burns, bites, allergies, some workplace injuries, and infections. It will also handle chronic disease management.

Sources said the centre is not intended to treat patients with life-threatening medical issues and won’t accept patients arriving by ambulance.

Patients who show up with a more serious health issues, such as heart attacks, will immediately be transferred to the new mega-hospital.

The urgent care centre will have diagnostic services, including a CT scanner, so head injuries can be assessed and the appropriate treatment plan formed.

It will also have laboratory services and a pharmacy to aid in treating more patients onsite.

It’s designed to treat and release most patients to go home, but patients could be admitted to the new hospital through the centre if necessary.

The centre is not affiliated with the private development of a walk-in clinic on University Avenue West announced Tuesday by Van Niforos, owner of the Penalty Box restaurants.