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BEYOND LOCAL: Southlake struggles to find new site after Greenbelt plan reversal

Newmarket hospital president says there's no candidate on the horizon for much needed second hospital site after the province nixed the proposal for King Greenbelt lands

Southlake Regional Health Centre currently has no options on the table in its search for a much needed new site, according to the hospital’s president.

The long over-capacity Newmarket hospital plans to build a second site to better handle the health-care needs of the fast-growing and aging area population. But more than two years after launching a website about the campaign to ramp up planning for a new hospital, new Southlake president and CEO Dr. Paul Woods said finding a location remains an issue.

Woods, who took over the role this year, said Southlake was considering a proposal from King Township and a developer to build a hospital on Greenbelt land on the border of Newmarket. With that plan falling through, Woods said they have had to restart the initiative. 

“We’ve had to sort of press the reset button on some of the processes, including land acquisition, when the previous attempt did not come to fruition,” he said, later adding that “the result is, at this point, we don’t have a candidate for land for a site.” 

The King proposal came about as the province agreed to open up protected lands in the Greenbelt for residential development. A landowner intended to provide some land to Southlake for a nominal fee, with the backing and support of King Township, which urged the province to fast-track the proposal. But after the province reversed its decision regarding opening up those Greenbelt lands for development, it also nixed the idea of a Southlake hospital site there. 

The search for a new site has had its challenges, Woods said. Part of that is due to the inability to use any surrounding Oak Ridges Moraine or Greenbelt land, he said, due to legislation. The other issue is cost.

The surrounding area has “a very high commercial price for land,” he said, adding the province will not pay for land acquisition. “We would have to raise that cost of land and we have the fortune and misfortune of ... being situated in a place (that has) extremely high land prices. Those are the opposing tensions, and we’re hoping we can find a solution.

“I’m confident we can," he added. “I don’t know what the solution is yet, but sometimes, just taking a deep breath, let’s trust the process, let’s go down the path and see what turns up.”

Despite the challenge, Woods added that they are learning from what they did before as they seek a new site. 

“I don’t want to say going back to the drawing board, but learning from the process from before and reconstituting the process for actually acquiring land again.”

He further said there are still plenty of ways to help improve health care in the meantime, such as by focusing on integrated care.

“We do serve a very large geography, and instead of thinking about hospitals as this gravitational centre that we have to pull everybody to us, but actually say how can we push high-quality, specialized care out into the communities we serve so people can get care closer to home.” 


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Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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