Canada

First design details of new $2.8-billion Civic are released, include single rooms and advanced technology

“Having lived through a pandemic, there is a lot of updated thinking in terms of how we would manage the next pandemic,” hospital president and CEO Cameron Love said.

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Lessons learned from COVID-19 will be imprinted onto Ottawa’s newest hospital, with infection control and flexibility for the next pandemic built into the design of the new Civic.

Single patient rooms, advanced robotic and digital technology and an abundance of natural light will be among the key features of the new Civic campus when the long-awaited $2.8-billion development opens near Dow’s Lake in 2028.

It will also include the ability to easily transform acute care beds into fully monitored intensive care beds if needed during a future pandemic, room to segregate ambulatory patients for infection control and improved ventilation in case of airborne infections, among other things.

New Ottawa Civic Campus designs.
New Ottawa Civic Campus designs. Photo by Handout /The Ottawa Hospital

“Having lived through a pandemic, there is a lot of updated thinking in terms of how we would manage the next pandemic,” said hospital president and CEO Cameron Love.

The Ottawa Hospital released the first design details of the new 2.5-million-square-foot Civic Tuesday.

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It will become the biggest health-care project in the city in a generation, said Love.

It will also require an unprecedented fundraising campaign. The community’s share of the $2.8-billion project is $700 million. Of that, $400 million will be the focus of a fundraising campaign. The remainder will be raised through other means, including parking revenue and retail, said Love. Other cities in Ontario have helped pay the community share of new hospitals with special tax levies.

“It’s early days yet,” Love said in response to a question about whether the hospital is looking at requesting a tax levy. He said the hospital has yet to finalize its local share plan.

The new hospital will replace the nearly century-old Civic that was built after another deadly global pandemic — the 1918 influenza pandemic. In contrast with the new hospital where all rooms will be single occupancy, just 10 to 15 per cent of beds in the current hospital are private. Thirty-five per cent are wardrooms, with three or four beds. Some have been the site of in-hospital outbreaks in recent months.

The new hospital is being designed to limit many of the infection control challenges that have plagued older health institutions — including the current Civic hospital — during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although planning for the new hospital was underway long before the pandemic, its design reflects some of the historic lessons learned about how buildings can help patients remain healthy and heal.

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The main hospital building, which serves as the regional trauma and tertiary care centre, will sit on an escarpment on the Experimental Farm across from Dow’s Lake, with its emergency department located one floor below grade covered by a green roof. It will include about 640 beds with room to expand to about 1,200. When the Heart Institute moves to the site during the second phase of construction, about 200 more beds will be added. The current Civic, without the Heart Institute, has 460 beds.

New Ottawa Civic Campus designs.
New Ottawa Civic Campus designs. Photo by Handout /The Ottawa Hospital

Below the escarpment, there will be a partially submerged parking garage with up to 2,500 spaces, medical office buildings and a research tower. Queen Juliana Park will be redeveloped on the roof of the parking garage. The Dow’s Lake LRT station will connect to the hospital site with a covered walkway.

The main building will consist of two towers— one 11 storeys and one seven storeys — separated by an atrium. The hospital helipad will be located on top of the 11-storey south tower, which will include dedicated trauma elevators. The Civic is the regional trauma centre.

The hospital will be home to “the most advanced trauma centre, one of the most innovative neuroscience research programs in the world,” along with some of the most advanced digital technology to allow for new treatments and services, according to the hospital.

Traffic into and around the 50-acre site is likely to become a key community concern as the hospital begins expanded consultations on the design.

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Ottawa Hospital proposed site: On December 2, 2016, the Government of Canada announced the proposed transfer of the former Sir John Carling (SJC) site to The Ottawa Hospital.
Ottawa Hospital proposed site: On December 2, 2016, the Government of Canada announced the proposed transfer of the former Sir John Carling (SJC) site to The Ottawa Hospital.

The plan for thousands of parking spots on site is something that came under scrutiny during earlier phases of the planning process, with opponents arguing that devoting large amounts of space to parking represents an outdated view of hospital design, especially since this hospital will be located on, and connected to, the newly expanded LRT.

Love said the parking garage, which will largely be “out of view,” will accommodate patients and families who can’t use LRT, especially during off-peak hours, as well as staff and others in and out of the hospital campus. It will also replace a surface parking lot with 220 spaces across from Dow’s Lake and accommodate that need.

The current Civic has about 1,200 parking spots on site.

New Ottawa Civic Campus designs.
New Ottawa Civic Campus designs. Photo by Handout /The Ottawa Hospital

Patients visiting the hospital will enter off Carling Avenue, which will become the “main spine” of the hospital, which will require further traffic studies and consultations. There will be separate entrances for emergency vehicles, staff, materials managements and servicing.

Work on the parking garage is set to begin in 2022 and be completed in 2023. Hospital construction is set to begin in 2024 and be complete in 2028.

Controversy long marked the planning around building a replacement for the Civic. The original site — on the Experimental Farm directly across from the current hospital — was selected by the former Conservative government under Stephen Harper and later overturned by the current Liberal government.

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After a review, Tunney’s Pasture was later chosen by the National Capital Commission as the best site for the new hospital — partly because of its proximity to transit. That was rejected by The Ottawa Hospital’s board of directors and others.

The current site, home to the former Sir John Carling building, was eventually selected through multi-level agreement.

Love led a presentation on the Civic development during a meeting of city council’s finance and economic development committee on Tuesday.

He also provided a few more details about what will happen with the current Civic campus as hospital management eyes the property for a “post-acute village” focusing on long-term care, rehabilitation and mental health.

It means the plans, as they currently exist, call for the current Civic site to be part of Ottawa’s health-care future, rather than be turned over for other redevelopment.

Love said it likely won’t be until around mid-2022 that the hospital will start consultations about the current Civic site. He noted that, other than the planning, nothing can really be done until the new Civic opens.

Mayor Jim Watson and councillors praised the Civic project team for its work so far.

Watson highlighted the trio of major city-building projects happening at once: the expansion of the O-Train system, the super library on LeBreton Flats and the Civic development.

Love addressed questions about future transportation and traffic studies, which will be part of consultations this summer, and access from the new Civic to the Trillium Line.

City planning general manager Stephen Willis said staff are considering options for connecting the new Civic campus with the Dow’s Lake O-Train station, either with an overhead or underground connection. It’s unlikely a separate station or an extended Dow’s Lake Station would be built on the south side of Carling Avenue at the hospital site.

— With files from Jon Willing

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