St. Michael's 3.0
Update on issues related to new patient care tower
Over the last five years St. Michael’s Hospital and Unity Health Toronto have been dealing with a number of issues indirectly and directly related to the construction of our new patient care tower. Many of these issues have been covered by the media and we expect there will be more stories in the coming months as legal proceedings continue.
For those who are not close to these issues, below is a Q-and-A with a little history to explain what is happening over the next few months.
For almost 130 years, St. Michael’s Hospital has been an urban angel in the City of Toronto, here to care for our community, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us. It’s an institution revered globally for the excellence and compassion of its care.
As part of this mission, in 2015 construction began on a transformative 17 storey patient care project which would increase the hospital’s capacity and expand its ability to provide the highest quality of care. Many parts of the current hospital are more than 100 years old. Delivering a better patient experience in more modern facilities that are suited to the expertise of our teams and the care they provide is what initiated the planning for our redevelopment.
St. Michael’s is building a new tower adjacent to its existing site, known as the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower, named after this generous donor. This new building will include 97 beds for specialized inpatient care, new operating rooms with the latest surgical technology, expanded intensive care space for coronary, medical and surgical patients and home to our world-class BARLO MS Centre.
The project was undertaken through a Public Private Partnership (P3), as required by the Government of Ontario for major projects. This involves inviting the private sector to deliver the physical facilities and the required financing to build major projects, transferring risk to the private sector, and away from the public sector.
After construction had already begun on the redevelopment project, St. Michael’s was made aware of allegations about one of its executives, Vas Georgiou. These were in relation to an alleged fraud in his past before coming to St. Michael’s, and concerning conflicts of interest with John Aquino the former president of the construction contractor, Bondfield.
In September 2015, St. Michael’s received an email from the Globe and Mail which included these allegations and three days later, Mr. Georgiou was placed on a leave of absence. The board formed a Special Committee comprised of elected directors, independent legal counsel, and employment law advisors to oversee an investigation into the issues relating to Mr. Georgiou.
In November, in response to these issues, St. Michael’s did the right thing by dismissing Mr. Georgiou. St. Michael’s focus was on timely completion of the project for the benefit of patients and the community.
Construction on the project continued, but its progress was complicated by financial difficulties experienced by Bondfield – like many of their other projects locally and across Ontario. In early 2019, Bondfield filed for bankruptcy protection. Initially, the project’s insurer, Zurich worked with St. Michael’s towards advancing the project. However, after approximately a year, Zurich elected to stop managing the project and to instead pay out funds remaining under the bond they issued for the Project.
In December 2019, the Court authorized the hospital to retain EllisDon as the construction manager for the remaining tower scope of work, to continue progress of the project. St. Michael’s acted fairly and in the best interests of its community. This work continues, even in the face of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Michael’s is doing its best to construct a hospital during an unprecedented pandemic to increase capacity for the broader healthcare system and give our communities access to enhanced services. We are proud that despite all these challenges, St. Michael’s has upheld its commitment to provide, and is continuing to provide, excellent and compassionate care for our patients. Read more about the new floors in our new patient care tower opened to support COVID-19 care.
In March, further evidence was reported about the same public allegations from 2015 involving Mr. Georgiou’s involvement with John Aquino.
Zurich is now trying to get out of its contractual obligations based on the same allegations of which they were aware since 2015. At issue in the current case is whether Zurich has a right to refuse payment for the completion of the project, particularly when it knew about the allegations years ago. There are strong legal arguments as to why they do not.
We are optimistic the courts will move swiftly to ensure Zurich provides the funds we need to finish our construction project while St. Michael’s remains focused on what matters most: caring for those who need us most.
This redevelopment project will allow us to transform how we provide patient care and help us to become Canada’s premier critical care hospital. We’ve called it St. Michael’s 3.0, and it includes a new patient care tower at the corner of Queen and Victoria streets, a renovated Emergency Department and significant upgrades to existing hospital space.
Read more about the improvements we’re making to St. Michael’s Hospital.
Before your next appointment, call 416-360-4000 or visit www.stmichaelshospital.com/locator/clinics.php to confirm where your clinic or your doctor’s office is located.
- Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute (entrance on Victoria Street)
- Behind Metropolitan United Church on the east side of Bond Street
- A Green P lot across from the hospital’s Queen Street entrance
For more information, contact BuildingSMH@smh.ca