The Time is Now: MSJ Future Planning

Feb 6, 2020 | News

A group of staff and medical staff gathered on January 29's town hall to hear updates and ask questions about the future of MSJ. 

Future planning for Mount Saint Joseph Hospital (MSJ) began last fall, under the direction of a planning team made up of Dr. Nora Cummins and Dr. Victor Tsang, co-physician leads for the MSJ Clinical and Master Plan, and corporate director Jen Duff.

Their task was a tall one: develop a future clinical vision for MSJ. And fast. Not only because it’s identified as one of PHC’s “Quality-Forward” priorities for 2019/20 but, as the planning team articulated to staff and medical staff at last week’s MSJ special information town halls, the time is now to address MSJ.

“The people working here do an amazing job but it’s happening in a building that hasn't had a significant financial investment in 27 years,” says Dr. Tsang, who is also the Associate Head for the Department of Surgery. “We know that on the Facility Condition Assessment, the physical condition of MSJ is the third-most critical in all of BC.”

We also know that approximately 500 new rental units are set to open in Mount Pleasant, the growth rate shows this neighbourhood (27 per cent) as exceeding the average growth projection for the City (24 per cent), and the Broadway extension project has been approved, inevitably increasing traffic and access to the area.

“We need to make sure we have a hospital that is ready to serve this population,” says Dr. Tsang. “We owe it to the people who live here and who will be moving here to have the services that this changing demographic will need as they age, start families, etc.”

In addition to gaining an understanding of what population growth and urban development will mean for the immediate Mount Pleasant community, the planning also provided the opportunity to get to better know the work of MSJ.

“This process has allowed us to better understand the different areas of the hospital and where we already shine locally and regionally,” says Dr. Cummins, who is also the Associate Head of Medicine at MSJ. “We know we're exceptional at community medicine, day surgeries and operating a high efficiency emergency department. We run the only geriatric-psychiatry unit in the province, perform about 22 per cent of all breast surgeries for BC through the Providence Health Care Breast Centre (situated at the MSJ site), and our Ophthalmology program is renowned – not only with the people who it serves but also with clinicians, who want to work here.” 

This process also confirmed that the work happening at MSJ and the clinical volumes being seen haven’t been accounted for at any other site, meaning that the work happening at MSJ is irreplaceable and can’t be absorbed anywhere else.

In a nutshell – MSJ will need to continue to be an integral part of the health care system.

So we know what we do well, we know that MSJ is here to stay, and now the question that the planning team has been working to solve over the past five months is how do we do the things we do well in the right place?

Medicine staff and medical staff attended the town hall on the evening of January 28 to get the details on MSJ's “Opportunity Assessment Report.”

Opportunities Abound

Through research, consultation, engagement and guidance from Deborah Mitchell, Vice President of Seniors Care, Organizational Strategy & Partnerships, this planning team is developing an “Opportunity Assessment Report” that will include a proposed clinical vision and accompanying infrastructure possibilities.

The report will offer a menu of upgrade and infrastructure options for the renewal of the MSJ site that range from renovating a little, renovating more, and renovating everything.

“The clinical vision is based on our review of current clinical services, engagement with clinical and physician leadership and teams, population-based future needs and the desire of the region to situate clinical services for the best possible care and outcomes for patients,” says Jen Duff. “This dual role sees MSJ being an important community hospital serving the local community, and MSJ providing highly specialized services and programs to serve needs regionally and provincially.”

And while all indicators point to now being the time to address MSJ, it is understandable to also wonder how this time will be any different from previous planning projects, such as when MSJ was set to rebuild its Emergency Department (ED). The short answer is that there aren’t any guarantees this work will lead to a renewal commitment for MSJ. Approaching MSJ’s future planning by first submitting options means that we will seek clear confirmation on interest and direction before investing more significant time and energy.

“Victor and I were both here ten years ago when we were sure we were getting a new ED. And then that didn’t happen,” said Dr. Cummins. “But all of that research and planning for that project didn’t go to waste – we’ve simply picked up where that vision left off. We’re optimistic that the outcome will be different but even if we are stalled this time we will have a whole body of work that will inevitably help to make a successful future case for MSJ renewal.”

The Opportunity Assessment Report will first go to the PHC Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and to the PHC Board for input and final approval, before submission to the Ministry of Health at the end of March. They will review the options and advise PHC on the way forward for MSJ.

“MSJ is a really special site and part of our job as the planning team will be to translate that compelling story to the Ministry,” says Deborah Mitchell. “There is a huge appetite to build on the strengths of this site.”

Last week's MSJ town halls offered staff and medical staff an excellent opportunity to ask questions and seek clarity on the opportunities that have been discovered and received over the past four months through the planning process that support the creation of a visionary plan for the future of MSJ.


How long until we see action being taken?

An exact timeline hasn’t yet been determined but the first milestone is to have a completed Opportunity Assessment Report submitted to the Ministry of Health at the end of March. Once we receive direction how to proceed, we will mobilize and move quickly to complete a detailed clinical plan, functional program and indicative design. Optimistically this planning would take around one year and then a final business case would be worked on.

Much like with the new St. Paul’s, the business case then needs approval from Treasury Board. Once that is approved, we have an official project. Projected timing for completed business case is 2022-2023.

What is the plan for ongoing engagement with staff?

We recognize the competing demands for staff time with CST, quality improvement work and other strategic priorities. Our desire has been to be respectful of people’s time and not ask people to come to really detailed sessions and get granular input when we’re not yet at that level of detail. Once we hear back from the Ministry regarding the future direction for MSJ, the planning team will come back to MSJ staff and medical staff in depth. Basically, once we know the envelope we should be working within then we can ask how to fill it.

We keep getting good ideas – we heard one last week! – and the planning team is still very open to hearing and receiving ideas. These are early days! Be in touch with Dr. Cummins, Dr. Tsang, or Jen directly to share your thoughts.

When will the planning team come back to consult with the clinical teams?

Once the options report goes forward and we receive further feedback and direction, the planning team will come back to the clinical teams. This piece of the work will be significant, and input from the clinical teams will be imperative.

So there really wasn’t a plan for MSJ all along, one that was connected to the new St. Paul’s?

MSJ was completely out of scope when it came to planning the new St. Paul’s and so, no, there is not a plan for MSJ in connection to the St. Paul’s build. Once we got the green light on the new St. Paul’s last February, we got the go-ahead to start looking at what the renewal options could be for MSJ.

The plan for what exactly that will look like is what we're trying to get to with this planning process. We are very early in this process, and there will be lots of opportunities for more detailed conversations as we move forward and together advance an exciting future vision for MSJ.

For more FAQs that surfaced as part of last October’s future planning town halls at MSJ, please see:

Quality Forward

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