Royal Victoria Hospital: Janice Skot, President & CEO

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Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) is a very dusty, noisy place these days and President and CEO Janice Skot says, “Bring it on!”

The community hospital in Barrie, Ontario is embarking on phase one of the largest capital project in Simcoe County’s history. Although the current facility is only 12 years old, by 2012 the hospital will be double its current size with a 440,000 square thousand feet addition. Approximately 100,000 square feet of renovations are planned for the current hospital by the end of 2013. An expected 1,200 employees will be added to the payroll and another 75 doctors will be recruited to practice.

This $400 million project comes to the city of Barrie, with a population growing at four times the rate of the national average, during the worst economic downturn in recent history. Not only have the people been very supportive of the project. The RVH Foundation’s “I Believe” community fundraising campaign has raised $34.5 million of its $35 million goal, with substantial donations coming from the city of Barrie, the county of Simcoe the District of Muskoka and the backing of the provincial government.

The ambitious $400 million  project should give plenty back to the community, as well. Of the 200 construction workers who are onsite every day during the peak of construction, 75 per cent are local hires.

“This development has provided significant opportunity for local suppliers and will have considerable spinoff impact,” says Skot.

Greater Capacity for Patients and Technology

The existing facility has functioned overcapacity for some time now. Ninety per cent of the time, RVH was at more than 100 occupancy. This means last year approximately 7,500 patients were temporarily cared for in hallways while waiting for an inpatient bed to become available. It was estimated that as many as seven per cent of emergency room patients grew so frustrated by the long wait, that they left before seeing a physician. The redevelopment will go a long way toward ensuring the hospital is able to meet the overcrowding issues caused by the area’s exploding population.

The expansion features an emergency department that is triple the size of the existing space, and includes a trauma unit, mental health crisis team, as well as isolation areas for infectious diseases. The diagnostic imaging department will double in size and includes a second MRI unit and three interventional radiology suites.

The expansion also puts RVH on the cutting edge of technology with a fully automated laboratory and a new robotic arm in the pharmacy for mixing chemotherapy treatments. “This is going to ensure accuracy and make it a safer environment for staff,” says Skot.

Healthcare Close to Home

The Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre is the jewel in the crown of RVH’s Phase 1 Expansion Project.  In 2008 the hospital opened Canada’s very first Temporary Radiation Clinic which, with one radiation unit, is able to provide lifesaving treatment to over 300 area cancer patients every year.   However, another 4,600 patients must still travel long distances – to Toronto or Sudbury – for their care.

Once opened, the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre will provide comprehensive care to all patients throughout the large region.  In fact, the centre is expected to experience  more than 60,000 patient visits in its first year alone.

As well, a residential lodge called Rotary House is being built for cancer patients and their families who must travel Barrie for treatment. The lodge will be housed in the next phase of the expansion; a building called Rotary Place, which will also contain  the Family Medicine Teaching Unit for medical residents from the University of Toronto who spend two years receiving their final training at RVH. When the residency program is fully functioning, there will be 18 family medicine residents on campus at any one time.

Maintaining “Community” in an Expanding Hospital

“RVH is known for exceptional care and a real family atmosphere,” says Skot. “This community is supportive of the hospital… really loves its hospital and feels tremendous ownership and pride for the hospital.”

Skot sees some challenges to maintaining that community inside and beyond the hospital walls as RVH comes into this period of rapid growth. Not only will 1,200 staff be joining the hospital in a relatively short amount of time, there is a significant portion of the existing workforce which will be retiring in coming years and there is ongoing recruitment in progress to replace them.

“The real challenge in this project is making sure that we preserve the patient centered, ‘exceptional care’ culture, yet welcome and embrace the variety of new staff that will most likely come from outside of our region to work here, and maybe from outside the country,” says Skot. “Our job is two-fold; bringing together new staff and making them understand our values and our conduct, and at the same time ensuring that the physicians and staff who have been here for many, many years are ready to welcome a more diverse workforce and see the opportunities that people who come from afar and the experiences they bring can make us an even stronger organization.”

“I think at the end of the day, although the bricks and mortar is exciting, there are greater challenges ahead of us.  To me, the greatest challenge will be maintaining and growing the culture of the organization.”

-by Tracy Million Simmons

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