Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital and Healthcare Centre Precinct

On September 18th, it was announced that the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital has reached substantial completion. In construction terms, that is great news and an amazing milestone. Living close to this hospital, I know it will be much-needed in Vaughan as the City continues to grow in the future.

As much as the hospital is worth celebrating, it still does not open until 2021, there is more at work around the hospital that is also worth exploring and celebrating…like the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct.

At the end of the press release the City of Vaughan issued, it states, “Hospitals are magnets for innovation, education, and investment that can lead to a community’s transformation. These opportunities must be seized to maximize positive outcomes. This is certainly true for the lands surrounding the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, called the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct, a first-of-its-kind initiative in Canada.” It goes on to say:

“In October 2019, [City of Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua] signed a memorandum of understanding with York University, Mackenzie Health and ventureLAB to identify transformational opportunities to maximize the best use of the lands surrounding the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital through a feasibility study. At its core, this partnership is about city-building, leveraging these partners and anchors to enable innovation, technology and economic opportunities from startups to multi-national enterprises in health-related sectors and creating a community healthcare experience.

Vaughan Hospital Healthcare Precinct Plan


This is not “new” news, but for someone recently moving into Vaughan this is really interesting and the plan can be found here along with the City memo. The 82-acre land that surround (and include) the hospital and beside Highway 400 are substantial enough that this proposition, if done right, could be extremely useful to Vaughan and the GTA.

Years ago, I worked for the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario and the organization’s mission was to promote and advocate for health research in Ontario through the 24 research and teaching hospitals in Ontario. To my knowledge, outside of Downtown Toronto, there is no other hub of high tech surrounding a hospital or healthcare facility in Ontario. There may be universities linked to hospitals, which also make sense, but that is more on the research/teaching side than the research/tech side.

Commercialization of technology

Commercialization of research is significant. When research is commercialized, it creates high-tech, good paying jobs. It creates applications that can standardize healthcare. It attracts the best and brightest from around the world to work in Ontario and make further significant contributions. It also inserts innovation into a large system not known for being nimble. This is no criticism of Ontario’s largest portfolio. Managing healthcare is one of the hardest things to do, and it is easily criticized. Introducing innovation is always challenging – remember eHealth and electronic health files? So, when I heard and read about this plan, I got excited at the possibilities of living next to, and having use of (but hopefully not too much) a world-class hospital campus.

When you read the plan, a lot of it focuses on the planning aspects and how it fits with the Provincial Policy Statement and other Official Plans, plus how it fits into the wider neighbourhoods. But then you find what is permitted and what the City is thinking about. Some of the stuff will be typical and all-important stuff, like medical buildings where you can get x-rays, blood work, and everything else done on site, pharmacies, physiotherapy/rehab, chiropractors, massage therapies, etc. (Page 30).

Where this plan will either succeed or turn into another generic “medical campus” will be in the following areas:
  • Research and development facilities.
  • Facilities that construct or repair medical devices.
  • Education, training, meeting or conference facilities related to healthcare.
  • Limited pedestrian or cycling pathways and passive recreation.
The reason I point these four items out is for a few reasons:

 

  1. It will determine what kind of high-tech businesses come to Vaughan, and the kinds of jobs that will be available.
  2. It could mean Mackenzie Health can become a hospital that conducts research and commercializes innovative technologies.
  3. How the hospital connects with the neighbourhood needs to be a consideration, especially when you have a major highway to the west of the site.
  4. The City of Vaughan signed an agreement a few years ago with Niagara University to develop and build a campus in the City. As educational opportunities grow, it could entice other schools to set up campuses in Vaughan, and the spin-offs from that would be beneficial.
How to power the site?

The plan also outlines a series of Guiding Principles (Pages 39-43) and several outcomes the plan hopes to achieve. One I want to point out is the following:

The viability and benefits of a renewable source district energy system will be considered for the Hospital Precinct Plan and within the wider Centre, as well as “‘green” means of ensuring sustained energy production to serve the hospital and wider area.

Creating a green site that is environmentally-friendly is important. For all we know, right now, this could mean putting up some solar panels, incineration, or some other form or power generation. An ambitious program could target something like Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). If the plan is to develop a renewable energy system, that is very interesting for two reasons: 1) partnering with the tech companies on the campus could lead to further technological developments that could bleed over into energy and other sectors and 2) it could mean the latest and greatest technology could power the local neighbourhood and City.

How to get to the hospital?

Photo: vivanext.com

Conveniently, York Region has a Master Transportation Plan and the VIVAnext program that is building bus rapid transit as part of its Centres and Corridors strategy (item 3 – background). One of the corridors identified as part of the next phase of expansion is across 23 kilometres of Major Mackenzie Drive from Jane Street in Vaughan to Donald Cousens Parkway in Markham. The hospital is located right at Jane Street and Major Mackenzie Drive. That is very convenient! It also helps that Canada’s Wonderland is across the street and this will boost ridership in the summer months.

The importance of the bus rapid transit line cannot be understated. While the Transportation Master Plan envisions a complete network in 2041, and along with this the transition of bus rapid to light rail, this project is unfunded. Hopefully a hospital campus and high-tech hub will encourage the funding of a rapid transit line that will allow more people in Vaughan to work on site without driving, further connects the region by transit, and develops the site into another centre along a busy corridor.

Conclusions

There is a lot of pressure to get this right. The City of Vaughan has to get this right. The opportunity to transform this area and the City with an economic/employment anchor like high-tech is promising for the long-term viability of the City. There is a lot to like on the surface of this plan and the hospital this plan will surround; however, like with all things, it is all in the details and execution of the plan.

Featured image is courtesy of TorontoStar.com.

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