(L-R) Melissa Chee of VentureLAB, Rhonda Lenton, president and vice chancellor of York University, mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Mark Falbo, chair of the board at Mackenzie Health. Credit: Buckley Smith

Published: October 2nd, 2019

As the City of Vaughan works towards the opening of the brand-new Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital in late 2020, it announced a partnership today with VentureLAB, York University, and Mackenzie Health to conduct a feasibility study and envision the plans for the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct.

The proposed complex is planned to be built on the same land as the hospital, situated on an 82-acre parcel of land at Jane Street and Major Mackenzie Drive, and could potentially house research facilities and student learning facilities through the newly formed partnership.

The feasibility study, which is being funded solely by the City of Vaughan, will look into the possibility of creating a new innovation lab from VentureLAB on the property, as well as opportunities for York University to have its students collaborate and learn from the staff at the hospital.

Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua speaks to the press about the potential new healthcare facility at Vaughan City Hall. Credit: Buckley Smith

The study is expected to run until December of 2020, at which point the organizations will come together to determine the future of the project and begin working out the finances and other important details.

All four organizations signed a memorandum of understanding at Vaughan City Hall this morning, with representatives from each organization, including Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, speaking to the media about the importance of the project and their envisioned role.

“The new state-of-the-art Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital will be a catalyst for other uses, like medical offices, labs and research space, healthcare incubators, and education and conference rooms related to healthcare,” he said. “This is where thought leaders, subject matter experts and innovators will come together to advance a shared vision of healthcare innovation. This transformational collaboration will benefit the healthcare of residents of Vaughan and beyond.”

Bevilacqua emphasized the importance of bringing together the private sector and public sector by pooling their expertise. Together he said believes the chances of successfully improving healthcare in Canada increase.

“There’s a reason why we sought our partners today. One thing I recognize as mayor of the city… is that we don’t have all the answers. Somewhere is the answers,” he said. “These are exceptional individuals and exceptional organizations. They can provide the type of knowledge and the type of expertise that our city needs.”

He also pointed to Vaughan’s thriving tech companies and innovation hubs, including VentureLAB.

Melissa Chee, the president and chief executive officer for VentureLAB, acknowledged the struggles the Canadian healthcare system faces but touted the potential that this project could have on solving some of those issues, adding that many of the companies who VentureLAB already supports are working towards healthcare solutions, something that could be leveraged into bringing world-leading healthcare to Ontario.

“We are well aware of the challenges that our healthcare system faces. Ontario ranks poorly on critical factors such as wait times, quality of care. and physician integration. However, it is my personal optimism that in Ontario, we have the opportunity to truly lead, create, and deliver an environment for offering our citizens globally leading healthcare in one of this country’s most diverse communities,” said Chee. “At VentureLAB, healthcare is a key sector to our mandate. We have supported more than 350 health companies who are creating products and solutions to solve healthcare challenges faced by hospitals, healthcare providers, and patients.”

Chee said the goal is to have fully integrated healthcare across all healthcare providers,  allowing patients to access their medical records not only at any healthcare facility but also at home.

To achieve such a future though, it will require having a workforce who are trained to excel in a more modernized healthcare system, she indicated.

Rhonda Lenton, the president of York University, said that an environment in which medical students or healthcare science students can work closely together with a cutting-edge hospital would be the way to create that workforce.

“We know that two thirds of all emerging jobs will require higher education. Some sectors will diminish in importance, while others, like healthcare, will experience growth,” said Lenton. “This initiative has the potential to increase the experiential learning opportunities available to students and to strengthen our ability to lead multi-sector, collaborative and community-engaged research projects that could improve the health and well-being of communities around the world.”

While Bevilacqua said that it is too premature to say exactly what each organization’s role in the potential facility would be, he did suggest there are benefits to each of the organizations having a physical facility on the premises and said that they’re still seeking further partners to come on board.

The Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital, which will be the first hospital built in York Region in the last 50 years, is set to open in December of 2020 – the same time that the feasibility study is set to conclude – and Bevilacqua is touting it as the country’s first “true smart hospital”.

When asked for some examples of how it will be “smart” – it’s not the first hospital to claim that title – Bevilacqua described technology that could analyze the size and weight of a patient while they are still in the ambulance so that a properly sized bed can be prepared. He said this could save precious time in serious situations like heart attacks. Bevilacqua added that there are many other proposed technologies that are being planned for the facility.