A planned new 1Door4Care healthcare hub for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario is being described as a “total game changer” for parents and children.

The new hub has been approved by the Ontario government and will be built on the west side of CHEO’s main campus on Smyth Road. The new building is designed to help children and teens with complex medical needs, or who are dealing with mental health challenges. With construction expected to start in 2022, the next step is for Infrastructure Ontario to begin the procurement process for the 198,000 square-foot centre. 

Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jeremy Roberts says the new centre will be Ottawa’s largest infrastructure project since the LRT. 

1Door4Care will be home to new state-of-the-art facilities and services. [Photo © Brynn Brieda]

“This investment will completely transform how CHEO provides mental health, rehabilitative, and special needs care,” said the Progressive Conservative MPP who is also the parliamentary assistant to Todd Smith, minister of children, community and social services. The Government of Ontario previously committed $105 million to the project in 2018, under then-premier Kathleen Wynne. The money was reaffirmed by the Doug Ford government in 2019.

Bringing the services of seven different care centres from across the city into 1Door4Care is expected to help 40,000 children in the region. Planners and advocates say it will result in shorter wait times, integrated services, increased peer supports and co-ordinated visits.

“The pandemic has been tough on most parents but it’s been especially hard for those whose kids need the kinds of services 1Door4Care will include,” said Alex Munter, president and CEO of CHEO. “It’s also shown that we need to invest in improving care and access to these services.”

The new healthcare hub will feature clinic space, a physiotherapy rehabilitation gym, mental health clinics, indoor and outdoor therapy space, technology to allow for effective virtual care and much more. 

“By bringing care teams together, we will have hundreds of clinicians working together as one team to support kids with special needs, medical complexities and those facing mental health challenges,” said Munter.

Steve Herzog, chair of the 1Door4Care Family Advisory Council, said he’s excited about the recent announcement. Families and parents have been a part of the planning process since the initial idea and location selection in 2008. 

“Families and caregivers look forward to continued involvement and partnership in completing this important work,” said Herzog. 

Five year old Owen Pinet is no stranger to CHEO. He will be able to enjoy the benefits of 1Door4Care as his medical journey continues, according to a profile of the young patient provided by CHEO as one example of a child who will benefit from the new hub. Faced with the complexities of Owen’s hearing condition, gaps in information have left his family feeling frustrated. 

“Doctors have their own specialties, but when it comes down to a child with exceptionalities, no one knows how to stitch it all together,” said Owen’s mother, Julie Huot. “There also seems to be a real disconnect between all the health professionals and no understanding of all the work that has been done to date.”

With the integrated care and expertise at CHEO’s new hub, families like the Huots will hopefully be able to feel more confident and understood in terms of treatments and services.

Jeremy Roberts, Progressive Conservative MPP and parliamentary assistant to Todd Smith, minister of children, community and social services. [Photo © Jeremy Roberts]

“Imagine having so many different appointments for one child. I had to take leave from work to manage it all,” said Huot. “It would be great if there was one place we could go and I had one day to pair-up appointments to try and tackle as many as we could in fewer days.”

Families and patients are excited about the potential of the new building, she said. By bringing the services of seven outdated and inadequate locations under one roof, parents are sure to feel less overburdened. 

“I know how important this expansion will be,” said Roberts, “because it is exactly the kind of one-stop shop support that would have made a world of difference when my younger brother Dillon needed these programs and services.”