After nearly seven years of being a construction site, the redevelopment project at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital (HGH) is done.

On April 21 HGH marked the completion of the $200 million project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Ontario Minister of Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney.   

“This is the result of a major collective effort,” Mulroney remarked. 

The redevelopment project began in 2014 and has broadened the scope of services offered at the hospital. 

“It has transformed HGH from a local hospital to a full-service regional hospital,” commented Chief Executive Officer Marc Le Boutillier. 

HGH now has partnerships with the University of Ottawa medical school and nursing program at Collège La Cité. 

“It took a while, but we’re here!” HGH Board of Directors Chair Daniel Gatien said of the opening. 

All areas of care were affected by renovations or construction, but the hospital remained fully functional during the construction period. The number of beds increased from 69 to 100 and several specialized services such as MRI, orthopedics and ophthalmology were added.

Ultimately, the hospital more than doubled in size – as did the number of employees and physicians. The hospital has added 165,000 square feet of new space and the existing infrastructure was completely refurbished. 

The number of physicians has increased from 60 to 160 and the number of employees from 300 to 750. The new beds are in acute care, intensive care and the family birth centre.

The Emergency Department is three times larger than before and includes a new trauma unit and a level 2 intensive care unit. The Emergency Department is designed to accommodate 70,000 visits per year. 

“We now have access to a full range of health care services in the region,” observed United Counties of Prescott and Russell Warden Daniel Lafleur. 

Ambulatory care clinics are housed in a new three-story building designed to accommodate 70,000 visits per year. Ambulatory care includes 40 different medical specialty clinics, rehabilitation services for adults and children, hemodialysis, medical day unit and cardiology services. 

Perioperative Services occupy a new building and include three operating rooms, two endoscopy units and the medical device reprocessing unit. State-of-the-art surgical equipment allows for innovative orthopedic procedures such as hip and knee replacement in day surgery and ophthalmic surgery. 

The Medical Imaging Department is now equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and a new CT scanner. The building has been designed with space reserved for future nuclear medicine. 

A new health information system integrated with The Ottawa Hospital and local family health teams provides access to patients’ electronic medical record in a paperless environment. 

“Our doctors have been very much looking forward to celebrating this announcement,” said Dr. Julie Maranda, who recently completed nine years as HGH Chief of Staff.

The Hawkesbury and District General Hospital Foundation raised $11 million for the redevelopment project. Foundation President Nathalie Ladouceur said $4 million of the fundraising revenue made the new MRI and CT units possible. 

HGH, like many other health care facilities, continues to face challenges attracting enough staff to fill job vacancies. 

“The labour shortage is a systemic problem,” Le Boutillier said. 

He explained that for HGH, finding labour is more challenging because all personnel must be bilingual. 

When asked if HGH is offering signing bonuses to new staff, Le Boutillier said any such offering would only be the result of provincial strategies and would not confirm if HGH is offering the incentives. 

Mulroney said a review of Ontario’s French Language Services Act has resulted in stronger efforts across the provincial government and in partnership with the federal government, to ensure sufficient staff are available for bilingual health services. 

Le Boutillier said while HGH’s priority is serving residents of Prescott and Russell counties, it will continue to serve patients from nearby communities in Québec. 

“Everyone is accepted,” he said.