November 1, 2015

It’s hard to be envious of anyone stuck in a hospital bed, but the new Humber River Hospital draws more comparisons to a swanky hotel than a gloomy facility reeking of antiseptic and teeming with nerves.

Step through the doors of the state-of-the-art hospital and you’ll find robots that mix drugs and transport goods, bedside touchscreens that allow patients to video-chat with doctors, and machines that process blood samples in minutes, automatically entering results into electronic records.

All of that catapults the facility, set to open Sunday at Keele St. and Highway 401, light years ahead of its former digs, which were desperate for an upgrade.

“Patients could hold hands in the beds, it was so tiny … It was time to replace the old buildings,” said chief operating officer Barb Collins as she wandered the halls of the cutting-edge facility, being heralded as North America’s first fully digital hospital.

Automated robots are programmed to pick up supplies, ride elevators and deliver them to specific rooms in the hospital.

The new Humber River Hospital opens Oct. 18, 2015.


The new Humber River Hospital opens Oct. 18, 2015.

To the skeptics, Collins responds: “It’s safer to have an alarm telling me if (a patient) got out of bed and fell, than not knowing,” and “Robots are robots, but they still need monitoring.”

That’s why employees will be on hand to double-check robot-filled prescriptions and to ensure equipment is working correctly, while still delivering the human touch.

If you’re fretting about how many employees were cut loose to make way for technology, the hospital has an answer for that, too.

Rather than using technological efficiencies to axe jobs, the hospital has surprisingly hired 700 more employees to staff the hospital’s 656 rooms —80 per cent of which are single-patient.

The hospital is being hailed as innovative and North America’s first digital-first hospital.

Unlike the old Humber River Hospital, the private rooms allow the hospital to nix restricted visiting hours, and to place chairs that convert into beds in every room for use by family members — who “are encouraged to stay over.”

For out-of-town family or those who face extenuating circumstances, there is even an “amenity” suite on each floor, with a bed and bathroom for overnight stays.

Implementing the policy and building the hospital into a futuristic facility “hasn’t been all smooth,” says Collins.

There were tussles around getting electronic features to “speak to each other” and naysayers to prove wrong, including a former deputy health minister, whom Collins refused to name, who insisted renovations could be made to the old hospital instead of building a new one.

That deputy minister has since had a change of heart, claims Collins, but it’s hardly a surprise to her.

After 15 years planning the new facility, she says without hesitation: “This could well be a model.”


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