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Bradford residents have a say at Southlake community consultation

'Hospitals have traditionally been the bricks and mortar where people go when they’re sick ... but I think hospitals really have a different mandate going forward,' Newmarket hospital president says

A local health-care campus, better integration with family doctors, more beds to end hallway health care, and an addictions and mental-health rehabilitation centre were all on the table Tuesday evening.

About 25 residents and some members of council joined senior staff from Newmarket's Southlake Regional Health Centre for a public meeting at the BWG Leisure Centre on May 14 to discuss and provide feedback on how the hospital can grow and expand its facilities and services over the coming decade.

Dr. Paul Woods, president and chief executive officer at Southlake, opened the community engagement session by providing a quick overview of why the hospital is looking for public feedback as it celebrates its 100th anniversary and begins work on its next master plan, following the conclusions of its 2019-24 strategic plan.

“Hospitals have traditionally been the bricks and mortar where people go when they’re sick to get not sick anymore, but I think hospitals really have a different mandate going forward,” he said, explaining the mindset around health and wellness services is likely to shift. “What is it you need to feel supported by your hospital?”

Before the audience had a chance to answer that question, Shannon Brett, director of strategy, gave a quick recap of the services currently available at the hospital in Newmarket and some other locations in Georgina, Alliston and Toronto, including preventive, primary, emergency and transitional care.

Tyler Chalk, vice-president of strategy, analytics and communications, followed by providing some context of how the hospital has grown, saying that between 2003 and 2023, the number of beds there increased about 34 per cent to 486, but emergency department visits more than doubled to 119,074 from 57,004, and the number of patient days increased by 47 per cent to 133,803.

Primed with that information, Brett and other staff helped the audience break into five groups to discuss five different questions.

Group 1 was asked “How would you describe the current health-care needs and challenges within the community,” and some of their answers included:

  • better integrating seniors’ health care, retirement homes and long-term care homes with the hospital;
  • increasing social services and mental health supports;
  • increasing transportation from Bradford to Southlake;
  • reducing paramedic offload times and increasing flow in the emergency department.

Group 2 was asked “What are your expectations for quality of care, patient safety and patient experience while at Southlake?” and some of their answers included:

  • compassionate and kind staff;
  • accessible services;
  • access to education and information for patients and families;
  • ensuring health records can be more easily transferred to other health-care providers, preferably through a provincewide digital platform.

Group 3 was asked “How can Southlake contribute to promoting health and wellness initiatives in the community?” and some of their answers included:

  • developing stronger partnerships in the community, especially with family doctors and nurse practitioners to help people find care in the community without going to hospital;
  • providing more education about the resources available to patients and family members;
  • improving Telehealth to direct callers to services within their community rather than the hospital.

Group 4 was asked “How can we make sure our strategy reflects the diverse needs and perspectives of the community we serve?” and some of their answers included:

  • providing connected accessible care, especially close to where people live;
  • improving parking options for patients who need to make repeated trips to the hospital for ongoing treatment;
  • offering more smaller community-based facilities; 
  • ensuring staff reflect the patient population, understand cultural sensitivities and offering translation services.

Group 5 tackled Southlake’s plan to build a new hospital at a new location, in addition to redeveloping the current Davis Drive location and was asked “What do you think are the most important factors to consider in deciding where to locate the new site?” and some of their answers included:

  • building the hospital close to Bradford;
  • picking a location with less traffic than Davis Drive, but still accessible to public transit;
  • ensuring the location has enough room for future growth and planning 20 years ahead;
  • locating the hospital in proximity to the population and workforce.

Chalk thanked everyone for their feedback and noted there were some common themes with the first of the six sessions held in East Gwillimbury on May 7.

“This is amazing. There’s so much excellent feedback,” he said. “The good news is a lot of these themes are similar to what we’re hearing both from our staff and our physicians and our nurses and other communities.”

Local resident Ryan Charron called the meeting “interesting.”

“It was good for Southlake to be getting the feedback from people,” he said.

He called statistics presented on increases in usage at the hospital “mind blowing,” especially for alternate level of care (ALC).

Before the break-out sessions, Chalk also emphasized that from 2003 to 2023, ALC patient days had increased 532 per cent to 18,216. ALC patients no longer require acute care, but still need assistance with day-to-day living and may remain in hospital, occupying a hospital bed while they wait to be moved to a retirement residence, long-term care home, or a residence with home care.

While the provincewide issue is not exclusive to Southlake, Chalk explained it is expected to continue to have an increasing impact as the percentage of the population age 75 and older is expected to continue to grow.

To help address that issue, he explained Southlake began implementing the “really proactive” Southlake@home program in 2018, which created direct partnerships between the hospital and providers of both primary care and home care, to allow people to stay healthy while living independently in their home.

Moving forward, Chalk said the hospital wants to partner more with community groups who help people get to appointments, run errands, do laundry, access meals on wheels and more.

A summary of the feedback from all community meetings is expected to be available in September or October. Upcoming meetings are also planned in: 

  • Georgina, Wednesday, May 22 — The Link, 20849 Dalton Rd., Sutton
  • Newmarket, Tuesday, May 28 — Newmarket Community Centre and Lions Hall, 200 Doug Duncan Drive Newmarket
  • Aurora, Thursday, June 13 — Aurora Town Hall, 100 John West Way, Aurora

For more information, or to register, visit

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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