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MUHC: Modern superhospital to house researchers, foster collaboration

The MUHC superhospital is expected to receive its first patients in the 2015. (Image courtesy of the MUHC)

The MUHC superhospital is expected to receive its first patients in the 2015. (Image courtesy of the MUHC)

The debate over big vs. small—when it comes to hospitals and renovating or building from scratch, or whether the city needs two mega hospitals, one English and one French—is history.

Construction is moving ahead on both the MUHC superhospital at the Glen site, just behind Vendôme métro, and the CHUM superhospital on St. Denis. The cost for the MUHC buildings stand at $1.34 billion. An additional $255 million is to be spent on equipment, the MUHC reports.

When completed in the fall of 2014, the English facility will be home to the Royal Victoria, Montreal Children’s and Montreal Chest Institute, cancer centre and the MUHC Research Institute. The Shriners Hospital for Children, costing $127 million, will be next door to the Children’s.

After a six-to-eight-month commissioning period—to ensure all equipment works properly and employees are trained and oriented—the facility is expected to receive its first patients in the summer of 2015.

By February, construction was more than half completed, with concrete poured and exterior envelopes for each building being erected as workers install plumbing and electrical systems. It is a massive undertaking, with about 1,700 construction workers and 400 administrative, design, architectural and engineering personnel.

The main reason for the mega-facilities is the consensus among health-care professionals and government that century-old buildings cannot accommodate the high-tech focus of modern medicine.

MUHC planners expect that consolidation of many activities on one site will result in “better collaboration between medical professionals, more inter-disciplinary care for patients, and opportunity for researchers to be closer to patients,” its promotional literature says.

The new research centre will include a unit for innovative medicine that will carry out clinical trials for new treatments. A second unit in translational biology—applying findings in basic science to enhance human health and well being—will enable researchers to apply new developments in genetics and epigenetics (heritable, self-perpetuating and reversible systems) to such conditions as congenital defects in children.

The future of the buildings, including the magnificent Royal Victoria graystones on the slopes of Mount Royal, has yet to be decided, and their reuse will involve three levels of government and various other stakeholders, including descendants of the family that donated the land for the Royal Vic.

Quebec’s Health and Social Services department gets priority if it intends to use the buildings for other health-sector purposes. Next in line are other provincial government departments, then buyers elsewhere in the public sector.

Elspeth Angus, a descendant of philanthropist George Stephen, whose financial contribution to the Montreal General and Royal Vic hospitals was immense, says that if she has her way, the Royal Vic will not be converted into condos or McGill student residences.

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