The building of a new hospital, always a long and complex process, has developed more twists and turns locally than the Puntledge River.
The original one regional hospital model was scrapped after communities (especially Campbell River) that would lose their own hospital protested so loudly that the Vancouver Island Health Authority backed off.
Since then proceeding with a plan to build smaller hospitals in Campbell River and the Comox Valley, VIHA announced in January the new building here would be in Courtenay across from Crown Isle.
In spite of complaints, mainly from Cumberland, about potential problems with congestion and cross-river travel during an emergency, 14 high-priced consulting companies have been working for six months to prepare a case to present to Victoria for funding to build a hospital.
Now we learn the Department of National Defence, which has responsibility for the Comox Valley Airport, has forbidden a four-storey hospital at the chosen site because it feels the building would impinge on its controlled airspace.
Going down Ryan Road a little bit away from CFB Comox, VIHA quickly switched to the No. 2 location on its original shortlist, a spot next to North Island College.
Mercifully, we learned this week that the six months of work by the army of consultants is transportable to the new site. Otherwise, taxpayer dollars would have been wasted because the original site search team failed to factor in base airspace.
Single-hospital proponents will again call for one larger regional building to cover patients from Fanny Bay to Port Hardy. That horse has left the barn.
There might be more of a case to build on the other side of the Courtenay River, and the onus remains on VIHA to justify its Ryan Road choice.
However, St. Joseph’s is not getting any younger and this latest setback will delay the new hospital we need.
As it is, we’ll be lucky if the doors open by 2017