Toronto Mayor John Tory throws weight behind Scarborough hospital renewal plan


Toronto Mayor John Tory is pledging to put $2-billion-plus hospital redevelopment plans “at the top of the list” for his goals in Scarborough.

The two-term mayor, looking at re-election in 2022, recently saw ground broken for the Scarborough Subway Extension he championed consistently.

Now, Tory told Scarborough Business Association members at a virtual luncheon, he’s making Scarborough Health Network’s plan a priority.

In doing so, Tory revealed he knows more than the public about the Future Facilities Master Plan, known as SHN 2030, than the public does.

There are three versions, but one the hospital submitted to the province in 2019 as its favourite scenario saw SHN’s current three campuses reduced to two, a rebuilt SHN Centenary paired with a new building at a new campus.

Tory — who has been briefed on the plan, his office confirmed — told the July 8 event it would cost more than $2 billion, including $735 million for the new building.

The mayor said the cost is reasonable when you consider what’s been invested in downtown Toronto’s hospitals, which “have all been renewed, sometimes more than once,” with projects costing billions.

Tory said it’s astonishing “zero dollars” were invested during the same decades in capital projects to replace what he said are 1960s facilities “maybe on a good day” at SHN’s three campuses.

“Zero” isn’t strictly true — SHN General’s Emergency and Critical Care Centre, for example, opened in 2009 in a new wing costing $72 million — but the Centenary (which opened in 1967), General (1956) and Birchmount (1985) are all struggling with outdated facilities.

The General’s undersized operating rooms are Ontario’s oldest, as well as being among the busiest.

In 2014, The Scarborough Hospital and Rouge Valley Health System, which later formed SHN, told the province their Scarborough campuses needed $1 billion over 20 years to bring them to contemporary standards.

An expert panel the following year said the province should build capital projects at all three campuses, plus create a new “comprehensive” campus by 2030.

Lawvin Hadisi, a spokesperson for Tory, said the mayor has been helping SHN make contacts and “make their case for the dramatic underinvestment in Scarborough health care facilities over the years.”

While Tory cannot solicit donations personally, “he has been acting as a strong advocate,” Hadisi added in a statement this week.

The hospital has not updated the public about its development plans, which called for most construction between 2026 and 2031, and spokespersons did not respond to questions about what estimated projects costs are, apart from stating these costs were included for each option in its Stage 1 submission.

SHN has also not responded to questions about the current official status of the Master Plan or whether the ministry is proceeding with Option 3, a rebuilt Centenary and a new campus.

Asked about the plan’s progress, Lisa Cipriano, an SHN spokesperson, wrote on July 15 the hospital continues “to work with our provincial elected officials with a goal of accelerating our Master Plan submission as quickly as possible.”

A month earlier, Cipriano had said the hospital hoped “to receive endorsement to move to Stage 2 as soon as possible.”

Ontario’s health ministry was not able to respond to a request for information on the plan by press time.