By Lindsey Cooke 
BELLEVILLE – The highly-anticipated redevelopment of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital  is finally on its way.
The South East Local Health Integration Network  endorsed the first stage of funding for a new hospital in Picton. It now has to go through the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for approval.
The current hospital in Picton was built in 1959. PECMH decided to build a new one instead of renovating the existing building.
“It’s out of date, it requires more fixing and more renovation updates, adjustments and its narrow halls in certain places. It was designed for an earlier time. Without a lot of renovations and those renovations would not improve the life of the hospital, so the analysis says with all the work thats been done to date that a new hospital is a more effective and efficient approach,” said Paul Huras, chief executive officer of the South East LHIN.
According to the LHIN, the redevelopment includes a 17-bed hospital, 24 hour emergency service rooms, inpatient care, acute care for the elderly beds, outpatient procedures, and access to other Quinte health care hospitals with secondary care.
Once the new hospital is built, Huras said that he expects the current hospital will either be sold and used for another purpose or they will have it torn down.
The South East LHIN endorsed this project under the condition that the hospital is responsible for any additional operating costs, he said.
“We expect the operating costs to be the same or even less,” said Huras.
It is unclear as to when the hospital will be up and running.
“This does take time, we have to get through these processes… so we’re still talking probably more than a year before there will be a hole in the ground,” said Huras.
Quinte Health Care  runs four hospitals in the Quinte region. The organization said it’s been fighting for this redevelopment since 2014 and the exact cost is unknown right now.
“It’s too early to actually nail a number, we don’t have the price of the actual project,” said Huras, but according to the LHIN the estimated cost is $76 million.
Huras said that the hospital and Quinte Health Care have a plan in place to raise the rest of the money needed.
“There are various donors and strategies to obtain that and that community is very supportive of this hospital,” he said.
Stage two of the process will be looking at the details of the size, design and numbers of the building that will lead to a better understanding of the costs.