Plans for building a new University of
Waterloo Health Sciences Campus in
downtown Kitchener are a step closer to
City and province now on board
BY GRANT CAMERON
Plans for building a new University of Waterloo Health Sciences Campus in downtown Kitchener are a step closer to becoming reality.
Both the city and province are now on board the project.
Earlier this summer, Kitchener city council voted to kick in $30 million for construction of the campus.
More recently, the plan was endorsed by the provincial ministries of Health and Long-term Care, and Training, Colleges and Universities.
Under the plan, Kitchener will facilitate the transfer of 8.27 acres of land at the corner of King and Victoria streets in the downtown from private ownership to the University of Waterloo.
The campus—a collaborative project between the university and the city—will be anchored by a School of Pharmacy and include a Family Medicine Teaching Centre that will combine clinical care with teaching and research in family medicine.
The Family Medicine Teaching Centre could be under construction by 2005 in order to provide for new medical trainees for the 2005-06 academic year and the School of Pharmacy could be under construction by 2005 with the first students arriving in 2007.
The university has already signed a memorandum of understanding to explore collaboratively the establishment of a satellite of the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo.
As well, the University of Waterloo continues to work with the private sector and the community in order to secure funding partners as the project moves forward.
The Family Medicine Teaching Centre will help meet the province’s key priority of improving access to family physicians.
The School of Pharmacy will address the need for pharmacists, graduating about 120 each year.
Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, said the province is pleased to support the initiative because it wants to provide better access to quality health care.
“The university has, as well, agreed to our government’s request to provide an international pharmacy graduate program which will increase opportunities for internationally trained pharmacists to upgrade their credentials. In addition, the school will definitely help attract more medical professionals to this region and, with advice from Laurentian University, will provide pharmacy placements to the most appropriate locations in Northern Ontario.”
The Kitchener-Waterloo area has been hard hit by a national shortage of doctors, as an estimated 37,000 residents are without a family physician.
The Family Medicine Teaching Centre model will encourage interns to train, to put down roots and develop relationships with the community, enabling Kitchener to attract more doctors.
“The Downtown Kitchener Health Sciences Campus represents a coming together of two great cultures,’’ said University of Waterloo president David Johnston.
“In the Kitchener-Waterloo community, there is a healthy tradition of diverse groups working together towards a common goal. At the University of Waterloo, there is a strong culture of innovation and ideas.
“This Health Sciences Campus and School of Pharmacy bring together the strengths of both cultures for the benefit of the entire province.”
Kitchener’s contribution to the project came from a $110-million Economic Development Investment Fund approved by city council in March.
The approval of projects under the fund is based on detailed business plans. The business plan for a downtown Health Sciences Campus was endorsed by Kitchener city council at its June 14 meeting.
The plan says a downtown Health Sciences Campus would attract more health professionals including doctors to the area, further the region’s position as a global biotechnology centre and revitalize the city’s downtown core.
A report released earlier this year indicated that construction of a School of Pharmacy and associated residence building in downtown Kitchener would add $31 million to the region’s economy, create approximately 358 full-time equivalent jobs and some $21 million in wages and salaries.
The report, prepared by urbanMetrics Inc., a Toronto-based firm, found that from the perspective of maximizing economic spin-offs, downtown Kitchener represents an ideal location for a new university campus.
The report also indicated that recurring impacts—including annual operations, research, expenditures by students from outside of the region and out-of-town visitors to the campus—could add more than $28 million annually.
The campus follows a partnership that will see Wilfrid Laurier University move its faculty of social work from Waterloo to St. Jerome’s High School in downtown Kitchener by September of 2006.
The building will require just over $5 million in renovations.
Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr said the creation of the Health Sciences Campus will have tremendous benefits for the economy, health care and the vitality of the city.
“As a direct result of (the) announcement to build a new School of Pharmacy here in Kitchener, hundreds of new faces will soon be spending their time and their money in our community. This is a historic win for Kitchener.”