Prep work for the new $334-million, 153-bed regional hospital on 11 acres between North Island College and Queneesh Elementary has begun.
The controversial site was the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s second choice of hospital locations. The preferred locale was across the street, behind car dealerships and Costco on the north side of Ryan Road down to Anderton.
This site, however, was lost because of Department of National Defence regulations. It fell within an area about four kilometres in radius around CFB Comox and the airport that restricts the height of structures to fewer than nine metres.
Choice No. 6 at Crown Isle and Anderton was also nixed due to DND concerns.
The third choice was at Cumberland and Arden roads, No. 4 four was a property southwest of the college in the Ryan Road area, and No. 5 was on Trilogy property near Grant and Small roads.
VIHA considered 22 possible hospital locations in Cumberland, Courtenay and Comox before shortlisting to five sites, determined by a set of 16 criteria. These included proximity to the entire North Island population, access to transportation and transit routes, financial considerations, alignment of regional plans, magnitude of price and servicing, and helicopter accessibility. Criteria was equally valued to begin with, VIHA said. The final decision for the hospital’s location was based on detailed assessments including geotechnical surveys and a closer analysis of servicing infrastructure.
The new regional facility is part of a two-hospital project that includes a new hospital in Campbell River.
Former Cumberland mayor Fred Bates, a former chair of the regional hospital board, has criticized the site selection process due to traffic and other concerns.
He suggests the Cumberland side of the river is more suitable from a patient’s standpoint. Bates has also suggested “political expedience” has been a factor.
As for the set of 16 criteria, he feels the matrix is an arbitrary list not based on patient care.
He said former VIHA president/CEO Howard Waldner and the chair at the time were “absolutely certain it should be on the highway and it should be one hospital.
“Somebody changed his (Waldner) mind. That was my concern at the time. I said I would support whatever you do, as long as it’s done for patient care and not politics,” Bates said. “Clearly, politics got on board, because the solution we’re getting is not for the best patient care. Obviously a group of people or peoples split the difference. They got their hospital in Campbell River, which was an NDP MLA, so we don’t even have Opposition complaining.”
More than 1,000 trees will be planted at the hospital site before the project is complete in 2017.