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50 years at the new Stevenson

I am happy to be standing here today, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “new” Stevenson Memorial Hospital. What a proud history our People have achieved in this building which was recognized by the Minister of Health as “taking the lead in comparison to larger communities in hospital building.”

On June 28, 1964, the doors opened and the community celebrated. Over 1,000 attended the official ceremony to witness the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Hon. Earl Rowe, cutting the ribbon and over 4,000 citizens toured the building over the first few days.

It was a very exciting time as the community saw the long awaited new building open its doors and since that day, change has been continual as we strive to best serve the growing needs of residents from Alliston, New Tecumseth, Adjala Tosorontio, Innisfil and beyond.

It is an honour to lead such an amazing team of dedicated professionals as Stevenson’s President and CEO – following a list of impressive and accomplished leaders including Annette Jones and Gary Ryan. I’ve been here since January and the first six months have flown past. It has truly been a time of great learning and great accomplishments.

Over 50 years ago, newspaper articles started documenting the inadequacies of the original Stevenson Memorial Hospital. While the small white, three-sided hospital was once noted by the American Medical Journal in the 1930s to be “the most modern hospital for its size in North America.” . . . newspaper articles started writing about inadequacies soon after WW2. The community had outgrown the hospital.

Doesn’t that sound familiar??

History truly is cyclical . . . As we look at the story boards commemorating Stevenson’s rich history, I would like to highlight a few comments made by Marion Charlton – the first Chief Nursing Officer and one-time Administrator. Marion was unable to attend tonight’s meeting due to health concerns, but she recently shared her thoughts and memories of working at Stevenson from 1956 to 1996.

“One operating room, one caseroom, no Emergency Department and makeshift areas for other outpatient procedures demanded consideration for a new and improved larger building.”

On June 28, 1964, the new Stevenson Memorial Hospital opened with 85 beds, complete with separate and expanded lab and x-ray facilities, an Emergency Department, physiotherapy, pharmacy, central supply, two ORs and two caserooms, two labour rooms and two nurseries – unheard of before and improvements for patient care.

The hospital – and health care across the province – was booming during the 70s and 80s  before “purse strings were tightened and budgets cut.”

That’s about the time that our Auxiliary expanded and volunteer services continue to be critical to the operation of Stevenson today.

Stevenson was “right-sized” to 43 beds in 1990s and Marion Carlton documented the swing toward fewer inpatients, increased outpatients and on-going care in the community.

Perhaps reporter Kate Aitkin summed up the atmosphere best in a 1947 article that appeared in the Montreal Standard newspaper:

“The Friendly Hospital was the headline and she painted a picture of Stevenson having “an air of happy restfulness that helps patients recover quickly. Got a pain? Got an operation coming on? Head out to Alliston and recover with scenic effects and in comfort.”

What a great patient experience from 65 years ago – and a terrific reminder that we are still here for the exact same reason – to provide the best possible experience for patients in 2014.

As we think about the future, I would like to provide an update on the plan to redevelop our hospital and in particular the ER, ORs, Diagnostic Imaging and Laboratory areas. Everyone in this room understands the need and so do the community members who use this facility.

We have submitted a Pre Capital Submission; Schedules A and B to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. We are currently waiting for their approval to move into the next phase of the project – the five step planning phase. It is not a quick process; but it is one that we must remain committed to and we must engage the community to support us along the way.

The Stevenson Redevelopment Committee (SRC) has worked hard to prepare the submissions and is anxious for the green light. There are many reasons that this redevelopment is necessary. Our community is growing and aging and Stevenson must evolve and grow as well, in order to continue providing safe quality care and meeting the diverse needs.

With the aging infrastructure, it is impossible to fully meet many fire and safety regulations and important healthcare standards such as patient privacy, infection control and accessibility. The fact that the main lobby, volunteer information desk, hospital registration desk, coffee shop, gift shop and entrance to the hospital are shared with the Emergency Department triage area and waiting room is unacceptable.

The community has told us that a state-of-the-art Emergency Department is the first priority. We are also prioritizing surgical services, diagnostic imaging and laboratory. We are optimistic that we will receive an approval in the near future. How exciting to be at the beginning of a process that will create the future of Stevenson and our community for the next 50 years.

I would like to take a moment to thank the members of the Stevenson Redevelopment Committee for their unbelievable commitment to this project. Your hours of hard work are much appreciated.

Finally, I must take a moment to thank the Board of Directors and the tremendous staff, physicians and volunteers who have warmly welcomed me to Stevenson.

It has been a tremendous 6 months and I look forward to leading us into the future.