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New Comox Valley hospital will be near North Island College, premier confirms

PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK announced Thursday the new Comox Valley Hospital will go in at the intersection of Lerwick and Ryan roads by North Island College. MLA Don McRae liked what he heard. - Renée Andor
PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK announced Thursday the new Comox Valley Hospital will go in at the intersection of Lerwick and Ryan roads by North Island College. MLA Don McRae liked what he heard.
— image credit: Renée Andor

Premier Christy Clark announced Thursday the new Comox Valley Hospital will be by North Island College and construction is estimated to begin in early 2013.
The 153-bed hospital is expected to cost about $334 million and be completed in 2017. It will be jointly funded by the provincial government (60 per cent) and the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District (40 per cent).
Clark said now that the location at Lerwick and Ryan Roads has been chosen, no time will be wasted in starting the project.
"The plans for procurement will begin right away," said Clark during the announcement at NIC. "We think we will be able to have shovels in the ground at the beginning of the new year next year. We want to see this hospital built as quickly as we possibly can."
Specific designs won't be available until further along in the planning process, but the hospital is expected to include three buildings for acute care, clinical support and parking.
Campbell River will receive an estimated $266 million 95-bed hospital at the current site of the Campbell River and District General Hospital with the same estimated start and finish dates.
CSRHD chair Claire Moglove noted some Comox Valley and Campbell River residents' concerns regarding the locations of the hospitals and the decision to have two hospitals instead of one larger one for the communities to share.
"There may still be some who say that the outcome of two new hospitals is not the right solution or that one or both of the locations is not the best, but there is no perfect answer," said Moglove. "I truly believe that the model we now have … will provide a significantly improved level of care for patients, greatly enhanced technical improvements and improve working conditions for the medical staff, professionals, for many, many years to come."
The previously announced site for the Comox Valley Hospital on Ryan Road across from Crown Isle was nixed due to height restrictions on buildings. That location was chosen just over a year ago but was within an area around CFB Comox and the Comox Valley Airport that restricts the height of structures to nine metres.
Clark noted that the location at NIC is not "absolutely 100 per cent perfect, but it was the best of the bunch given the choices."
Vancouver Island Health Authority president and CEO Howard Waldner added VIHA looked at its options carefully and is happy with the new location.
"We did a very thorough evaluation of about 16 sites in total and this one came out as our preferred option very clearly and early on in the process," said Waldner. "It's very proximate to good arteries of roadway to make sure the citizens get here when they need to get here very quickly."
The intersection of Lerwick and Ryan Roads is a high crash zone intersection, and Clark noted changes will have to be made to the surrounding neighbourhood, such as potential changes to traffic patterns.
"There are always changes to traffic patterns and parking issues and all of those things, that's always one of the tradeoffs that communities and regions need to make in order to accommodate new development," said Clark.
Waldner also addressed the concerns of some Comox Valley residents surrounding the size of the new hospital site, as it's 13.3 acres, whereas the previously announced site by Crown Isle was 15 acres with the ability to expand by a further five acres.
"We've done very careful work around the size, so I can assure that the site that we've selected is big enough to meet the needs of the hospital that's being planned, both now and for the foreseeable future," said Waldner.
"In fact, we've planned 13 years out, so we know this is scalable — the way we're going to design the hospital will be in such a way that there'll be space available for further development on the site as the demand comes in the future so we're very confident that this is the preferred site."
NIC president Dr. Jan Lindsay said the college also carefully considered how the hospital could affect the college's growth in the future.
"That was one thing we looked at very carefully, would there still be sufficient land for the college to develop, and certainly we have a lot of build-in sites that are still available to us," said Lindsay. "And certainly, I know with the hospital the possibility of going up is there so we've looked at those kinds of things and feel that definitely there's still sufficient room for the college to expand."
Some Comox Valley residents have expressed concerns that having two smaller hospitals rather than one large one will deter some medical specialists from working here. Waldner said he's confident that the new hospital will attract specialists, especially because of the beauty of the area.
"We'll have absolutely no difficulty recruiting and retaining staff of all disciplines to come live and work and be part of our team on Vancouver Island," said Waldner.
Comox Valley MLA Don McRae was beaming during the entire announcement, as this project is something he's worked on, alongside numerous other organizations and agencies for so long.
"This is unbelievably, no doubt the most proud moment I've had as an elected official in British Columbia and for the Comox Valley," said McRae.
The Comox Valley Hospital project is expected to create 1,037 direct jobs and 817 indirect jobs in industries supplying goods and services used in construction.
For more information, visit www.viha.ca and search for North Island Hospitals Project.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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