Last night’s Town Hall made a compelling case for a new Southlake.  

The hospital’s Chief Executive, a former nurse, Arden Krystal, told us Southlake is literally bursting at the seams. We learn that 90% more physical space is needed and there is no room to expand on site. The main buildings are over 50 years old and are near the end of life.

Southlake wants to keep the present Davis Drive site and re-purpose it for walk-in or ambulatory patients. A new greenfield site would focus on acute and very technical medicine. It would cost an eye-watering $1 billion at the very least with the Province essentially footing the bill. (The Chief Executive was hopeful some land could be gifted by benefactors.)

The Closer the Better

For the first time Arden Krystal gives some clues about the possible location of the new Southlake. She would not want it to be at the far end of the hospital’s catchment area. It would be more efficient to locate it reasonably close to the Davis Drive site. Ideally, it would be within 5km – 10km of the existing site

“and the closer the better”.

This makes sense. Even with the separate ambulatory/acute designations it seems likely there will be traffic between the two in terms of medical staff and at least some patients. And it seems improbable that very expensive medical equipment will be duplicated at both sites unless it is absolutely essential. 

Health and the Newmarket Economy

Newmarket’s Mayor, John Taylor, believes Southlake is a regional asset which serves a wide catchment area beyond the town. He must also be acutely aware of the importance of health and health services to the local economy. But, over time, will medical and allied medical services migrate to the new location?

York Region’s 2019 Employment Survey of Newmarket tells us:

“Employment in the Health and Social Assistance sector was the primary driver of growth, adding over 2,500 jobs to the Town’s employment base since 2009.”  (My underlining for emphasis)

The parent document, York Region’s Industry and Employment Report, regularly highlights the importance of industry “clusters” which

“encourage networking, attract investment, innovation and facilitate the incubation of new business…” (2017 report)

This is true of the health sector as of any other. The gravitational pull of Southlake in Davis Drive draws medical and allied medical services into the area.

60-80 Acres needed

Can the 60-80 acres Southlake needs for its new acute hospital be found within Newmarket? If not, where will the new Southlake end up and what criteria would be used for selecting a suitable site?

The map above shows the area within a 10km radius of Southlake.

Lakeridge Health in Durham (which is a large community hospital like Southlake) is currently going through this very process. It says it needs at least 50 acres which, amongst other things, should be not be in the Greenbelt nor in the Oak Ridges Moraine nor on prime agricultural land.

The site would have to be at least 10km from another acute care hospital with an emergency department. They list other site considerations (likely to apply to Southlake also) such as land acquisition costs, proximity to residential areas and regional corridors such as the 400 series of highways.

I have no idea where the new Southlake will be located. But I guarantee the Planning Departments in our neighbouring municipalities will be scouring their patches looking for a suitable site.

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The Auditor General of Ontario’s Annual Report for 2016 has the results of value for money audits of large community hospitals such as Southlake and Lakeridge Health. 

Update on 11 August 2021 from Newmarket Today: "It's going to take all of us. Southlake pitches new hospital to Newmarket citizens."