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New mental health hospital is completely wireless

OTTAWA – Canada’s first public hospital and research institute to be designed, built, financed and maintained by a private sector company, opened their doors in October 2006. Of note, the new facilities are said to be the first in Canada to function on completely wireless technology.

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre replaces the 100-year-old Royal Ottawa Hospital. Its affiliated research institute, the uOttawa Institute of Mental Health Research now resides in a tower with state-of-the-art laboratories and technology. The facility, a teaching hospital of the University of Ottawa, was built in two years, finishing six weeks ahead of schedule and on budget.

“What an incredible journey of discovery and reward for all who have been involved in the building of this spectacular new facility,” said Bruce Swan, CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (ROHCG). “We commend the Government of Ontario for its commitment to this project but, most importantly, for its commitment to the patients and families of Eastern Ontario who need mental healthcare.”

The new Royal Ottawa and the research institute were conceived as a private-public partnership, known as an Alternative Financing and Procurement, which ensured the public delivery of healthcare in a facility that was designed and constructed to exact specifications set out by the ROHCG.

The Healthcare Infrastructure Company of Canada, the partner in the arrangement, provided the capital costs for construction and will maintain the new facility for the next 20 years. One of the contractual obligations requires that the new facility remain in “as-new” condition at the end of the 20-year arrangement.

The complete re-development of the hospital and research institute provided the opportunity for the application of a wireless information technology system to be deployed in the entire facility. The benefit of the new technology, the first of its kind to be used in Canada, is significant efficiency in the delivery of healthcare at the bedside and throughout the ROHCG.

“A new research institute has enabled us to recruit some of the brightest stars in neuroscience and behavioural research from around the world,” said Dr. Zul Merali, CEO of the uOttawa Institute of Mental Health Research. “We will have advanced imaging and diagnostic techniques that allow us to study brain function more closely than ever before. The brain, and its link to behaviour, is still uncharted territory. We believe that our team of clinical and basic scientists will change that in this spectacular new facility.”

Background on the construction of the new Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and uOttawa Institute of Mental Health Research

A dramatic departure from the old Royal Ottawa Hospital, the new 399,178 square foot facility accommodates 188 inpatient beds as well as a wide-range of research, education and outpatient services.

The structure consists of nine, three-storey home-like inpatient care units wrapped around open-air gardens to provide access to safe outdoor environments. The seven-storey tower on the southeast corner near Carling Avenue houses the ROHCG’s research, education and administrative services. Outpatient and outreach services are in close proximity, providing greater public access.

The new facility is a calming and comforting environment infused by natural light to provide a therapeutic atmosphere for patients to heal. At the centre is the fabulous Winter Garden, a large “open market” area with 108 skylights and range of services, including a coffee shop, hair salon, used-clothing store and hospitable settings to relax and socialize.

State-of-the art design and materials have been applied throughout construction, which began December 17, 2004. Completion of the project is six weeks ahead of schedule and within budget. During its peak construction period, 800 construction workers and tradesmen were employed on the site.

Employees, equipment and administrative services began transferring to the new facility on October 29; inpatients began to arrive on November 6. Demolition of the old buildings start November 15 to make way for the establishment of a new Youth and Geriatric Psychiatry in-patient unit slated for completion by July 1, 2007.

The total cost for the new facility is $132 million, of which, $15 million in funding is required as part of the community share under the public-private partnership funding agreement

Facts about the Alternative Financing and Procurement
The facility is an innovative public infrastructure renewal program that has the capital costs of the new facility, and the operating costs of the non-clinical services blended into a monthly mortgage over a 20-year partnership. The deal includes the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new mental health centre and research institute. The consortia awarded the construction is The Healthcare Infrastructure Company of Canada (THICC), which is comprised of the following companies: Borealis Infrastructure Management Inc., Carillion Canada, Ellis Don Corporation, Oxford Properties Group, Parkin Architects Ltd., and, Adamson Associates Architects. A ‘life-cycle’ program built into the deal ensures that the facilities remain in a ‘like-new’ condition for the duration of the 20-year agreement and will be continuously maintained. The new facility is a public hospital with non-clinical services managed by the private sector.