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Toronto's Sunnybrook, St. John’s Rehab to merge health-care services

Staff make their rounds in the critical care unit at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

In a bid to cope with financial constraints and an increasing demand for their services, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and a Toronto rehabilitation institute are the latest in the health-care sector to join forces.

The voluntary merger between Sunnybrook and St. John's Rehab Hospital, a Toronto-based specialized rehabilitation facility that offers, among other things, an organ transplant rehab program and a burn rehab program, was approved by Ontario's Health Minister Deb Matthews on Friday, and will take effect July 1.

Sunnybrook's president and chief executive officer, Barry McLellan, said the two institutions have been partners for years. "When you can grow that partnership and achieve some efficiencies and provide what we believe is better, more seamless patient care … it was a pretty natural fit for both organizations," he said in an interview.

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Sunnybrook is not alone in looking to improve care at a time when the number of patients in the health system is growing, and as funding fails to keep pace.

The Credit Valley Hospital and Trillium Health Centre merged in December to create a single entity serving Mississauga and West Toronto. The newly merged hospital said earlier this month that it filed a balanced budget and reported a surplus of $5.3-million for the past year "while dealing with increased volumes and demand for services."

And last year, the University Health Network announced a merger with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute in an attempt to free up beds in Toronto's largest hospitals, and to provide patients with a smoother transition into a rehab facility.

Many hospitals in Ontario were merged in the 1990s as part of the Harris government's restructuring of the province's health-care system. This time around, hospitals are initiating the mergers as they grapple with rising health-care costs.

The merger of Sunnybrook and St. John's means that patients will move much more easily between the two institutions. It will also achieve about $1-million in efficiencies a year, "and those can go into improving patient care," Mr. McLellan added.

Pat Campbell, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Hospital Association, said it's difficult to speculate on future mergers, but hospitals are looking to streamline services and enhance patient care.

"If it makes sense for patients, Ontario hospitals will give it fair consideration," Ms. Campbell said.

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Education Reporter

Caroline Alphonso is an education reporter for The Globe and Mail. More

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