Ontario Opening Hamilton Health Sciences’ Expanded Stem Cell Unit

Published on August 12, 2021

Increased capacity provides access to blood cancer treatment for more than 75 additional patients per year

News Release

HAMILTON — Today Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott met with staff at Hamilton Health Sciences’ Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre to formally mark the recent opening of the expanded Ron and Nancy Clark Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapies Unit.

“Our government made an unbreakable commitment to put an end to hallway healthcare, and today we are celebrating the new expansion of the Ron and Nancy Clark Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapies Unit,” said Premier Doug Ford. “With this expansion, more patients will be able to access world-class cancer care closer to home. They can get the treatment they need…where and when they need it.”

In 2019, the Ontario government announced an investment of over $25 million to modernize and expand the stem cell transplant unit at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, one of three world-class hospitals offering all forms of stem cell transplants to adult patients in Ontario. This investment is part of the government’s commitment to expand hospital capacity across Ontario and end hallway health care by building a modern, integrated health care system centred on the needs of patients. With increased capacity and innovative treatment for blood cancer patients, the new unit will also help address wait times for procedures, which will support Ontario’s surgical recovery plan.

The Ron and Nancy Clark Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapies Unit builds on Hamilton Health Sciences’ expertise in blood cancer treatment with modern, expanded facilities and state-of-the-art technology to provide improved access to lifesaving stem cell transplant and other blood cancer treatments. With the province’s investment in this project, patients across Ontario will have better access to high-quality care closer to home and benefit from:

  • state-of-the-art design for a healing environment;
  • 15 new inpatient beds that will support care for more than 75 additional patients per year;
  • five new treatment bays for hospital day patients, bringing the total number of treatment bays to 35;
  • two lounge areas for family and friends equipped with kitchens; and
  • expanded laboratory and pharmacy space.

“Increasing the number of hospital beds and continuing to expand hospital capacity across Ontario is essential as we continue to respond to COVID-19 into the fall,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “The expansion of the stem cell unit at Hamilton Health Sciences will ensure even more patients have access to lifesaving treatment, closer to home.”

Working closely with Hamilton Health Sciences, the expansion was completed during and despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital welcomed its first patients to the new unit in November 2020 and by March 2021 completed over 122 stem cell transplants thanks to hard work and dedication of staff, physicians and frontline health care workers at Hamilton Health Sciences. The new unit will continue to support the efforts of this exceptional team to deliver high-quality care.

“We recognize the Ontario government’s investment and generous support from our local donor community in making this expansion of lifesaving treatment possible,” said Dr. Ralph Meyer, Vice-President of Oncology and Palliative Care at Hamilton Health Sciences, and Regional Vice-President of Cancer Care Ontario. “With this additional capacity, Hamilton Health Sciences staff and physicians will continue to build on more than 50 years of pioneering treatment, research and innovation in this specialty area of care. Expanding the reach of the program and its clinical expertise is tremendous news for patients across Ontario.”

The newly expanded stem cell unit is part of the province’s commitment to invest $22 billion in hospital projects across Ontario over the next 10 years that will lead to over $30 billion in hospital infrastructure and expanded capacity to support high-quality patient care.

In addition, the Ontario government is taking further action to support Hamilton Health Sciences during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing the hospital’s operating funding for the third straight year, with over $22.5 million in additional funding starting in 2021/22.This represents an increase of 2.5 per cent to the funding of over $910 million received by the hospital in 2020/21.

The 2021 Budget, Ontario's Action Plan: Protecting People's Health and Our Economy, outlined a total of $1.8 billion in additional investments for hospitals in 2021-22. This includes an increase of $778 million in funding to meet current and future demands for services, and ensures all publicly funded hospitals will receive a minimum 1 per cent increase to help them keep pace with patient needs and to increase access to high-quality care for patients and families across Ontario.

Quick Facts

  • A stem cell transplant is a procedure that replaces defective or damaged cells in patients whose normal cells have been affected by lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma and other cancers and disorders affecting the blood. The first successful stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor in Canadian history took place in Hamilton.
  • Over 1,130 patients received stem cell transplant treatment during the pandemic.
  • The expansion of Hamilton Health Sciences’ stem cell unit advances the hospital’s abilities to provide specialized cancer treatment to meet the needs of patients across Ontario.
  • In 2020, Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre became the first hospital in Ontario to provide specialized Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CART-Cell) therapy for patients suffering from lymphoma, and the first in Canada to provide this therapy to outpatients.
  • As part of the province’s fall preparedness plan, Hamilton Health Sciences received funding for up to 90 additional transitional beds and up to three level-three ICU beds to help build additional capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Under the 2021 Budget, Ontario is investing an additional $1.8 billion in the hospital sector in 2021-2022, bringing the total additional investment in hospitals since the start of the pandemic to over $5.1 billion. This includes creating more than 3,100 additional hospital beds across the province to increase capacity and reduce occupancy pressures caused by COVID-19.
  • The Ontario government is investing up to $324 million in new funding to enable Ontario’s hospitals and community health sector to perform more surgeries, MRI and CT scans and procedures, including on evenings and weekends, as part of a wider, comprehensive surgical recovery plan to provide patients with the care they need.