By Francis Baker
News Express Staff
The signs are up, and the new Groves Community Hospital is on track.
Provincial Health Minister Deb Matthews came to Fergus on Thursday afternoon to officially unveil the sign marking the new home of Groves Hospital. The sign is located on Beatty Line just north of St. Andrew Street West - not quite at the building site, which will be between there and Wellington Terrace on Wellington Place land in Aboyne, where there's a second sign.
The sign unveiling is an important step in the journey toward a new local hospital, "one of the first of hopefully many steps along the route going toward a new facility," hospital CEO Jerome Quenneville said.
The hospital design process continues, with planners, staff, and physicians getting together to plan the space needed in the new structure, he said.
Details about specific services, the layout and interior design, and so on are still in the future, although an expected submission to the Ministry of Health in January should help define the orientation of the building, he said.
And perhaps by next spring, the hospital will be able to present a proposed design for discussion to the public.
"The next step is everyone rolling up their sleeves" and working out details of what services will be included, what the building will look like, and what goes where, Matthews said following the sign unveiling. "That work is well underway."
Matthews said she was delighted to be able to unveil the sign, "to celebrate a milestone in the development of Groves Memorial Community Hospital's new building.
"This facility will be an important part of the health care system for Fergus area residents and will mean faster and easier access to services much closer to home, in a new and modernized setting," she said.
She stressed that it's the people who deliver health care, "and I'd never suggest the care they're delivering today is anything short of excellent. We just want to make the environment they're working in the best."
The new hospital will be state-of-the-art - it will actually be a complex that will be a hub of rural health care, board chair Paul Smith said.
"It brings together in one location many of the service providers people in our community need to see - it will make it easier for you and your primary health care provider to access the health care you need," he said.
Speaking for the medical staff, Dr. Patrick Otto said the local medical community is already working in ways the health ministry is planning for the future across the province, providing "cradle to grave" health care working as a team in the local community - but they're restricted by the aging facility.
The new hospital will also mean expanded teaching opportunities that have also become a hallmark of the local health care system, he said.
"Some of our colleagues and community members had some scepticism about this moving forward," he said. "We see that scepticism evaporating."
In thanking the provincial government and health minister, local MPP Ted Arnott said hospital capital decisions are so important to communities they should "never ever be made into political footballs, punted back and forth by provincial politicians."
Groves has a "great story to tell," he said - bringing together compassionate care, a team environment, a community and municipalities that back the hospital, enthusiastic volunteers and generous members of the community, which will be asked to fundraise for 10 percent of the overall cost of the project and to buy equipment.
"Let us think of (the hospital) as a gift to the generations who follow us, our children and our grandchildren," Arnott said. "And let them, the next generations, be able to look back on our time and truthfully be able to say, Those who worked together, in the second decade of the 21st century, gave our community the greatest gift of all."
The new hospital was given official approval to go ahead in August 2011 - just before the provincial election - with then MPP John Wilkinson announcing the province had set aside the 90 percent funding required to build it and giving the official "green light."
According to the general timeline presented then, the project could go to tender in 2014.
Wellington County is planning to work on roads and do preliminary work on land at the site next year in preparation for construction.