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No money for St Paul’s redevelopment in new BC budget

Concept plan for West End hospital improvements may or may not be complete

After years of promises that a concept plan is in the works to renovate St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver’s gay village, the latest BC budget says the plan is still in progress. Credit: Robin Perelle

The Ministry of Health and Providence Health Care are working to finalize the redevelopment concept plan for St Paul’s Hospital, says a Ministry of Health 2014/15 – 2016/17 service plan released with the BC budget Feb 18.

According to the last service plan, released by Finance Minister Mike de Jong in February 2013, a final concept plan and then a detailed business plan for redevelopment were expected to be completed sometime this year.

It’s another chapter of ongoing delays in redeveloping the century-old hospital that Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says is leaving him frustrated.

“Here we are in 2014 and they’re still talking about a concept plan,” Chandra Herbert tells Xtra. “I’m incredibly frustrated. We know the need is vast. The risk is high. The people of Vancouver and the people of British Columbia are suffering because of it.

“The number of promises the Liberals have made could fill a book,” he says.

The ministry’s new service plan says the detailed concept plan will need to account for the complexities of maintaining necessary care for patients on the current site when the project gets underway.

“The redevelopment timeframe will be determined through the business plan process,” the document says. “It is anticipated the redevelopment will include construction of a new outpatient care tower on the northwest corner of the current St Paul’s Hospital site as well as essential site infrastructure upgrades and selected renovations such as seismic upgrades to existing buildings.”

The budget document assertion that the concept plan is being finalized is at odds with what Chandra Herbert says Providence Health Care board chair Geoff Plant told him — that the concept plan was already finalized.

Providence spokesperson Shaf Hussain told Xtra Feb 13 the concept plan was with the ministry and Vancouver Coastal Health.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Ryan Jabs also told Xtra Feb 13 that “the ministry is currently working through the concept plan with Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care as we move forward to redevelop this important hospital.

“The concept plan will help determine the schedule, scope and cost of new facilities and the business plan,” he said.

It’s almost two years since Premier Christy Clark stood on the roof of St Paul’s and announced $500 million for the redevelopment.

“That was awesome,” says Brent Granby, a longtime hospital-redevelopment advocate. “It doesn’t seem they’re going to follow through on that.”

“I think it’s pretty disappointing,” he says. “We need money for the business case. That would be quite expensive, so we need money for Providence to do that.

“Whether it’s going to be a natural disaster or a man-made hockey disaster, that hospital is going to be important to people downtown,” he adds.

Capital spending on infrastructure in the health sector will total $2.6 billion over the next three years, supporting new major construction projects and upgrading of health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment, and information management/technology systems, the budget says.

Key capital investments in the health sector include:

• redevelopment of Children’s and Women’s Hospital;

• completion of a new Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department and critical-care tower;

• construction of two new hospitals (one located in Courtenay/Comox and one in Campbell River) to replace existing North Island hospitals;

• a new clinical services building for Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, which will include outpatient services and teaching space for medical students along with improved parking and access to the hospital;

• construction of the new Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre to replace and consolidate specialized mental-health services at Vancouver General Hospital; and,

• completion of 60 inpatient beds to replace 46 outdated beds in Vernon Jubilee Hospital, expanding the hospital’s capacity.

While there is no mention of St Paul’s in the primary budget document, there is a note that, from 2014 to 2017, “Taxpayer-supported infrastructure spending on hospitals, schools, post secondary facilities, transit, and roads will total $11 billion over the fiscal plan period, and will be financed by $7.4 billion in borrowing with the remainder funded by third parties, such as the federal government, and from internal cash flows.”