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New hospital to be built on Crown Isle land

The Vancouver Island Health Authority fitted a key piece of the North Island Hospitals Project puzzle into place Wednesday when it announced the site for the proposed new Comox Valley hospital.
The site of the new Comox Valley hospital.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority fitted a key piece of the North Island Hospitals Project puzzle into place Wednesday when it announced the site for the proposed new Comox Valley hospital.

A site has been approved on Ryan Road within the Crown Isle development, Howard Waldner, president and CEO of the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), announced during the VIHA board meeting Wednesday in Courtenay.

VIHA has entered into an agreement with Silver Sand Land Corp. — Crown Isle — for the purchase of the site once the North Island Hospitals Project receives a funding commitment from the provincial government, according to VIHA.

The parcel of land being purchased is 15 acres, with an option on a further five acres to allow for the future growth of services at the site.

The current Campbell River and District General Hospital site had previously been confirmed as the site of the new hospital that will be built in Campbell River.

With both sites now confirmed, the consultant team can undertake the work necessary to produce a business case that incorporates the costs associated with building on each site.

“Now, we move forward, and our dreams and our vision are then firmly rooted onto physical parts of geography, which allows us to move forward to develop the business case with real numbers, real thoughts, real issues, and we can make sure that business case is absolutely crystal clear and the costing is very firm,” said Waldner. “We’re very excited about this site. (There are) many, many synergies with the local population, but most importantly, it provides a wonderful synergy with North Island College.”

The challenge is now to work hard in the next few months to prepare a terrific business case to present to the provincial government this fall, noted Waldner, adding he hopes to see formal funding approvals coming forward in the winter or spring.

It has taken more than a year for the Comox Valley site to be chosen.

Local consulting firm Fletcher Pettis initially examined a number of sites in the Valley and came up with 22 sites in September 2009. Six sites were shortlisted in September 2010, and the selection of this final site was approved by the BC Government North Island Hospitals Project Board.

Grant Hollett, director of the North Island Hospitals Project, is excited to have a site chosen.

“We need this,” he said. “This was a critical piece for the next phase of our work. As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to plan and design a hospital if you don’t know exactly where it’s going. We, and I personally, are excited about this opportunity to submit this detailed business case.”

The Comox Valley hospital will have 150-160 beds with some regional services, while the Campbell River hospital will have 90-95 beds.

“Our commitment is to maintain existing services, and from my point of view as a planner, this represents an increase in capacity overall,” said Hollett.

VIHA does not yet have the funding required to build these new hospitals, and that is where the business case comes in as a request for capital funding, explained Hollett.

The initial estimated capital costs for the two hospitals are about $550 million.

“That’s a very imprecise figure right now, and a good part of the work in the business case is to refine that figure and make it as precise as we can,” said Hollett.

Hollett expects to have the business case ready to be submitted to the Project Board — which he considers the “gatekeeper for the government and Treasury Board for this capital ask” this fall.

“Their approval of the business case is critical,” he said.

The consulting team, which was approved last week, is now working to set up the engagement and consultation process for developing the business case. This will include engaging the physicians and staff at St. Joseph’s General Hospital and at Campbell River and District General Hospital, creating a patient and family advisory committee, and consulting with First Nations and aboriginal groups, explained Hollett.

These new hospitals will have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years, according to Hollett.

“I remind everybody we’re building for the future, substantially for the future here,” he said. “These facilities need to be adaptable, flexible and able to accommodate what we’re all now starting to understand is sometimes the rapid change to how we respond to health care needs. We don’t want the facility to get in the way; we want the facility to be an asset we can continue to invest in and use going well forward in the future.”