WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Ontario government is pledging $9.8 million toward the new Windsor-Essex mega hospital in its 2021-2022 budget.

The 9.8 million “will support the ongoing planning of a new regional hospital in Windsor-Essex, which will bring together acute care services in one location. By continuing to invest in health infrastructure and expansion, patients will be able to rely on high levels of care in their communities,” said the provincial document.

Windsor Regional Hospital officially took ownership of a 60-acre property for the proposed new regional acute care hospital in October of 2020, more than five years after the site was chosen.

The proposed site for the mega hospital is at the corner of County Rd. 42 and the 9th Concession.

“Premier Ford told us last August that he would ‘go in there … like an 800-pound gorilla’ to fight ‘tooth and nail’ for a new hospital for our community. The Premier kept his promise – and in doing so has made an unprecedented health care infrastructure commitment to this community that will benefit generations to come,” WRH President and CEO David Musyj said in a news release.

WRH officials say the funding will allow the hospital to move into Stage 2 of the five-stage capital planning process which includes the development of a Functional Program to offer a detailed description of how the new system will operate.

The program will include a look at staffing, space and equipment needs with a focus on workflow for patients.

“Building a new state-of the-art hospital for Windsor will be a game-changer for the community and the families that live there," Premier Doug Ford said. "I couldn’t be more proud to support this project with a nearly $10 million investment in planning, getting us one step closer to making this hospital a reality.”

Stage 2 is expected to take up to 24 months to complete.

“The hard work is just beginning,” Musyj said. “We look forward to getting going on our stage 2 development and moving ever closer to the first shovel digging into the ground at our new hospital site on Highway 42 in the near future. What COVID-19 has taught us … every day is valuable and time is of the essence.”

A lack of private rooms, poor ventilation that risks transmission and an ability to segregate areas of the current hospital facilities were all challenges highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, WRH says.

“The project is now real, it moves from if it gets built to when it gets built," Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told CTV News. "This functional design phase will take 18 to 24 months. We’ll spend $10 million laying out the hospital, it will involve a great amount of public consultation to get the project over the finish line and make sure that we deliver a hospital the entire community could be proud of.”

The County of Essex said in a news release it has passed three motions related to the need for a new hospital with each of the county’s seven municipalities affirming their support along with the city.

The release notes the county's 2021 budget put $5.8 million into a hospital reserve, bringing the total to nearly $25 million.

Essex County Warden Gary McNamara says the new hospital project will also help to strengthen the regional economy generating “more than 14,000 jobs over its lifetime” and more than $68 million in municipal taxes across the region.

“This project will provide for significant economic growth and diversification,” said McNamara. “It will attract to Windsor-Essex the best and brightest in the world of medicine and health care and it will attract more people and more families, fueling increased residential and commercial growth.”

Further information on Windsor-Essex Hospitals System's five stage planning process is available here.