Open Letter Re: Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus

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UPDATE: Just hours after this letter was published, news began to leak out that the decision has been changed. The Sir John Carling site, very close to Carling Ave. / Dow’s Lake, is now considered the front-runner. Wish I could take credit for pushing the NCC over the edge on this one, but it appears prudent planning and intense public and political pressure has won the day. We will all be the better for it.


Dear NCC and your Federal Gov’t Overlords:

As a longtime resident of Ottawa, I find it hard to think of even one good reason to relocate the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus to Tunney’s Pasture.

Whether the National Capital Commission is playing politics, bowing to a small but loud lobby group, or just incapable of handling a serious health care issue, the recommendation needs to change. You are messing with people’s lives here. Literally.

Mine, those of my family and my neighbours. And that has me just a bit cranky.


The NCC can dream up and advocate all the grandiose, multi-billion dollar fantasies it likes when envisioning the future of Ottawa. That’s part of your mandate and while some of the ideas might seem farfetched or fanciful, it doesn’t hurt to get outside our comfort zone once in a while.

But when it comes to the Ottawa Hospital and the site of the new Civic Campus, please stop. Be practical.

If only this one time, think in straight lines — as in how long it takes a sick person to get emergency care.

Easy Access

A hospital needs to be central and accessible to as many of its potential patients as possible. The proposal to build the new Civic Campus at Tunney’s makes no sense. On any level. None. Nada.

One argument stands above all others, it my mind.

Map from Prince of Wales Dr. to Ottawa Civic Hospital current, and proposed sites.

For tens of thousands of Ottawa residents, a trip to the ER will be much longer if the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus is relocated at Tunney’s Pasture. This map traces the most direct routes from Hunt Club/Prince of Wales to the existing Carling Ave. site, and (longer line) to Tunney’s.

The Tunney’s site is at Ottawa’s extreme northern boundary. That’s as far as possible from hundreds of thousands of the people the hospital will be built to serve — especially those in Ottawa’s fast-growing south end. Even at the best of times, a hospital at Tunney’s adds 4-5 minutes of travel time for potentally life-saving treatment for folks who already face a long trip to the emergency room.[/caption]

Don’t forget, there is no hospital in southern Ottawa, where the city is growing by leaps and bounds.

Have you ever driven Parkdale Ave. at rush hour? It’s more like Parking Lot Ave. The road is also narrow. There’s almost nowhere for drivers to “yeild right” for an ambulance, even with its screaming siren and blazing lights.

Parkdale provides access for patients being transported via Hwy. 417. That’s another large group of patients facing a potentially longer journey to the ER.

More minutes added to that Golden Hour — the 60-minute window first responders say gives them the best chance to save a life.

I’m not even gonna address the potential costs here. But if the option is to build on a site that is currently grass and fields, versus a site overgrown with federal government office towers, that is a financial no-brainer.

And finally, just this week, the world-renowned Ottawa Heart Institute joined the fray. The OHI is in the midst of a $200-million construction project at the Civic site and its directors say the Institute isn’t moving for at least 20 years. The OHI shares staff and facilities with the Civic; it needs the hospital close by — like, across the street.

Make The Exception

Apparently a couple of hundred Friends of the Farm are up in arms about the preferred site, which would take up a small portion (about 60 acres) of the Central Experimental Farm. So what?

They might have stacked the NCC’s “public consultations”, but they don’t represent the vast majority of Ottawans who need central access to their local trauma centre. To claim that this will open the floodgates to development of the beautiful and popular Ottawa landmark is ludicrous. The Farm is a national treasure and should be protected, but not from a hospital.

We’re talking about a one-time exception. The project isn’t a condo tower, shopping mall nor an amusement park. It’s one of the most important facilities in our city. We can sacrifice a bit of parkland for a place that will save lives, every day.

The Ottawa Hospital board has unanimously, and wisely, rejected the Tunney’s proposal. Good on them for having the guts to stand up to what certainly appears a decision based on petty politics. One government, it seems, doesn’t want to admit its predecessor might have done something right.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, as well as prominent local provincial Liberal reps, have also spoken out against the Tunney’s site. Watson is a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, so this backlash should be of deep concern to his Grit friends in the federal government.

This week he’s working back channels to get this decision changed. Let’s hope he succeeds.

My family, neighbours and I don’t care who makes the call to keep the Civic near its current location. We just want it to stay where it can help us in a crisis.

Do the right thing NCC. Crank up the PR machine and spin this any way you want, but build the hospital where it belongs.

Save some of our lives. Maybe even your own.


Don Wilcox

Resident of Ottawa

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2 thoughts on “Open Letter Re: Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus

  1. Well written and well said. We are goinf through the same issue her in Collingwood. Where to place a new hospital? Should we add to the current one? Should we buy more lane close buy the current hospital? And on and on and on!!!

    1. The “and on and on” part is the real rub. But when our elected leaders are talking, they don’t have to be acting. We elect them to make these decisions, and that’s what they should do. “Public consultations” are generally just chances for lobby groups to pack the gallery. Although some issues do bring out lots of residents and people who will genuinely be affected, the majority of these sessions seem to be a waste of time and money. The NCC did a boatload of these consultations for the Civic site and came up with a stupid recommendation. Accomplished nothing.

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