BLOG: Our fast-growing Children’s Hospital will need a new home

McMaster Children’s Hospital, emergency department, childrens healthcare, mcmaster university medical centre, hamilton ontario, community, hamilton general hospital, our healthy future, dr. peter fitzgerald

Imagining a new hospital in a new location

By Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, President, McMaster Children’s Hospital

As any parent knows, kids grow up fast. One  minute you’re snapping them into a onesie and the next, they’re asking for the car keys.

I often get the same feeling about our McMaster Children’s Hospital. It seems like yesterday we were celebrating an official designation as Ontario’s newest children’s hospital; now, our 30th anniversary is only a year away. And talk about growing before your eyes: We are the fastest-growing of any children’s hospital in the province and are now second only to the Hospital for Sick Children in size (for number of patients and level of acuity).

During the last five years at our Children’s Hospital, we’ve seen an overall 25 per cent growth in inpatient activity, with a particular growth spurt in the Emergency Department (ED), where the number of visits ballooned by 120 per cent. The McMaster Children’s Hospital ED is now the busiest in our HHS family of hospitals.

As busy as we are today, we’re also thinking ahead to how we’ll serve the next generation of children and youth. Over the last two years we’ve been working on a long-range plan for all of Hamilton Health Sciences, called Our Healthy Future. The plan forecasts the services we’ll provide, and the facilities we’ll need, over the next 20 years.

“It seems like yesterday we were celebrating an official designation as Ontario’s newest children’s hospital; now, our 30th anniversary is only a year away.”

We have a bold and exciting vision for McMaster Children’s Hospital. Over the next 20 years we will see an increase of 1.2 million children in Canada, which equals the current population of Manitoba! So we know the growth we’ve seen will continue as the population of Hamilton and surrounding areas continues to rise. Although our services are by no means limited to inpatient care, let’s look at our projected bed counts as a simple example of predicted growth: today we have 161 Children’s Hospital beds and in 20 years we expect to need 231.

So, when we look down the road, we envision a new facility that is designed specifically for the needs of children and their families, and including women’s health services such as our high-risk obstetrics program. We see this new facility being located adjacent to the Hamilton General Hospital campus.

McMaster Children’s Hospital, emergency department, childrens healthcare, mcmaster university medical centre, hamilton ontario, community, hamilton general hospital, our healthy future, dr. peter fitzgeraldThere are many reasons why this location would be ideal – expectant mothers who need acute care services will have them immediately at hand, while children and their parents will benefit from close proximity to our beautiful new Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre, with its extensive list of outpatient programs for children and youth with special needs.

“Best of all, we’ll have room to grow and develop.”

Best of all, we’ll have room to grow and develop. Our current location at McMaster University Medical Centre, where we share space with the university, just can’t handle the long term needs we foresee. I’m excited about our vision for the future of our Children’s Hospital and I look forward to sharing more information as planning continues.

We envision a new Children’s Hospital to meet our community’s needs – one designed specifically for kids and their families.

Recovering from stroke: It takes a community

It was a late night in June of 2014 when Roland Strempler, then 54, started feeling strange. The right side of his body was weak, his vision blurred. He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he knew he needed to call for help. Shortly after, paramedics took Roland to Hamilton General Hospital, where the emergency team quickly determined he was having a stroke.

Stroke is common. About one in six Canadians will have a stroke in their lifetime. Thankfully, advancements in medicine and research have helped to dramatically reduce the severity of stroke when it happens, and to improve outcomes for patients as they recover.

“My balance and coordination have really improved, and I’ve met other people in the same situation as me, so I don’t feel like I’m going through this alone.”

The Fit for Function program is doing just that – helping patients like Roland recover better and faster after they’ve had a stroke. The 12-week exercise and educational program offered through the YMCA, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and McMaster University is aimed at helping patients improve their mobility, strength, balance, gait and coordination, and supporting their re-integration into their communities. For Roland, it’s meant being able to cook, write, and climb stairs again.

“After you have a stroke, you feel like you have a lot of problems without many solutions,” says Roland. “This has been my solution.”

Three days a week, Roland visits the Les Chater YMCA in Hamilton where he works with an HHS physiotherapist, YMCA staff, and fellow participants on getting back to his usual self.

“The Fit for Function Program fills a huge gap that previously existed in the community for persons living with stroke,” says Rebecca Fleck, clinical manager of outpatient services at HHS’ Regional Rehabilitation Centre. “We’re hearing from participants that this is the type of program that they’ve been waiting for.”

The program is founded on more than demand. It’s driven by growing evidence that targeted exercise, offered in an accessible, controlled group setting, leads to better patient outcomes related to community re-integration, mobility and balance. A pilot study in 2011 followed two groups of patients post-stroke: one group participated in Fit for Function, and those in the other were given a three-month YMCA membership to exercise on their own. Results showed that Fit for Function participants had far better outcomes in terms of balance, walking, leg function, and reintegrating into their communities.

“Having the opportunity to access community based programs that are close to home is important to so many,” says Genevieve Hladysh, senior regional manager of health, fitness and aquatics at the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford. “Being able to come a place like the YMCA, where people can make friends and be connected to others, is so important for life after stroke.”

A full-scale randomized control trial is currently underway to further explore these findings. YMCA, HHS and McMaster staff are hopeful that the new study will only add to the evidence that programs like Fit for Function are essential to stroke recovery.

“Health care isn’t confined within the walls of a hospital. This type of collaboration is key to building a healthier future for Hamilton, and for our region.”

In the meantime, there’s resounding confirmation among patients like Roland that the program helps.

“My balance and coordination have really improved,” he says. “And, I’ve met other people in the same situation as me, so I don’t feel like I’m going through this alone.”

“Health care isn’t confined within the walls of a hospital,” says Sharon Pierson, vice president of community medicine and population health at HHS. “This program is an excellent example of how we can create better supports and outcomes for our patients when we team up with community service providers. This type of collaboration is key to building a healthier future for Hamilton, and for our region.”

The Fit for Function program is offered through LiveWell, a partnership between the YMCA, Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University, the Brant Community Healthcare System and Niagara Health System which offers collaborative, community-based care for individuals recovering from a variety of diseases and conditions. To learn more, click here.

BLOG: Imagining a healthier future at Hamilton Health Sciences

By Rob MacIsaac, President & CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences


Hamilton Health Sciences President & CEO Rob MacIsaac

Hamilton Health Sciences President & CEO Rob MacIsaac

I’ve worked in public service for a long time, and I’ve noticed that too often our systems are designed around the needs of the people who run them, not the needs of the people who use them. At Hamilton Health Sciences, we want to change that. We’re reimagining the way our hospital system is designed, based on the needs of the people we serve. This initiative is called Our Healthy Future, and it’s our biggest planning effort in decades.

We’re putting everything on the table for discussion. We are looking at all our services and all our facilities. We want to create a bold vision for the care we’ll provide over the next 20 years. Our planning process began in March 2015 and will wrap up in June 2016. Along the way we’ve asked questions, studied data, analyzed trends and challenged ourselves to imagine a healthier future for the communities we serve.

As part of the process, we talked to hundreds of people who use the health system, and to local health and social service organizations serving people at the community level. Now we have arrived at the point where we’re starting to draw conclusions about the kind of hospital system we need to build and how it should integrate into the broader health system.

We see a future where our patients and their families play a larger role in determining the care they will receive. We envision smooth transitions between one type of care and another so that patients and their families don’t feel overwhelmed, confused or frustrated. We see better communication and stronger collaboration with community partners.

We intend to increasingly invest in better managing and even preventing illness and disease, especially for the community’s most vulnerable populations. Rather than waiting until people show up at the hospital, we will bolster community-based care and wellness programs that help people avoid the need for hospital care. This population health approach is particularly important in Hamilton, which has among the highest rates of urban hospital use of any city in Ontario.

One strong suggestion we’re hearing from community-based health partners, and from the general public, is to expand our services beyond hospital walls, bringing them closer to the people we serve. We see a future where people can receive much of their health care in convenient community locations.

That said, there will always be patients for whom there’s no substitute for the acute care provided at a hospital. Our regional programs for cancer, cardiac care, stroke, trauma and burns are good examples of programs we will enhance and grow. We will also maintain and expand the care provided by our McMaster Children’s Hospital. While these services are located in and serve the people of Hamilton, they also serve a much broader region of some 2.3 million people. People travel from as far as Thunder Bay to receive care from HHS.

These changes go hand-in-hand with our role as one of Canada’s preeminent research and teaching hospitals. We will continue attracting the most talented health-care practitioners to our community to continuously improve our care using the best medical science. Our efforts in research and development will also need to extend to innovations in technology because it will be such an important enabler of our vision.

We think we can supercharge our work in technology innovation through collaborations with the private sector — be it local entrepreneurs or technology companies. And by doing so, we intend to make Hamilton Health Sciences an even more important player in helping power a strong local economy as new businesses spring up to sell our innovations to the world.

We’re not done planning yet, but our vision is starting to take shape. It’s a vision inspired by our workforce, our partners and the communities we serve — and central to it is a health-care system that puts the patient first.

To provide your comment or question about Our Healthy Future, please go to


This article originally appeared in The Hamilton Spectator.