ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) is about to get a brand new laboratory.

A quick tour of the current lab shows staff workflow efficiency isn't up to current standards.

"We've been in current space since 1954," says Lee-Ann Babcock, laboratory manager at STEGH. "With increasing technologies and diagnostic demands of the services we provide we outgrew our space many, many years ago."

On Monday, they got some help from the Ontario government when Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek announced a one-time capital grant to move their laboratory to the north tower of the hospital.

"Small and medium-size hospitals like STEGH make a difference in whether local patients are able to be treated in their home community," says Yurek.

STEGH President and CEO Robert Biron says they could not have done this project without the help of the province.

"It's over $5 million and our local share is a half-million dollars," says Biron. "We'll have to get support of our foundation to support the project, but without the Ministry of Health and government support, this project would not move forward."

The current laboratory is in an area of the hospital which has aging infrastructure and the systems in that area are difficult and costly to upgrade, according to Yurek.

The Laboratory Relocation Project involves the fitting-out of 6,500 square feet of previously shelled-in space in the basement of the North Building.

The new space will be the final piece of the puzzle for the North Building, which was built in 2018.

The fully functional diagnostic lab serves chemistry, hematology, pathology, transfusion-medicine, and point-of-care testing.

It will be for hospital use only, and not a walk-in or outpatient lab.

"To keep up with quality testing we provide, this new space is welcome change for sure," says Babcock.

Work is expected to get underway in 2021.