2 min

One step closer

Dr Peter Centre construction begins

Credit: Robin Perelle

It’s a very emotinal day, says Andrew Hiscox, watching construction crews officially begin work Sep 20 on the new Dr Peter Centre at the corner of Comox and Thurlow. “It’s the culmination of a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of memory.”

Named for Hiscox’s late partner, AIDS care pioneer Dr Peter Jepson-Young, the new centre will replace the one now operating out of St Paul’s hospital-and dramatically expand its services.

What began as a tribute to Jepson-Young, will soon provide shelter and comfort to many people living with HIV/AIDS, Hiscox says proudly.

The Dr Peter Centre caters to PWAs in deteriorating health with little or no external support. For the last four years, it has operated 10 beds and a drop-in program out of an abandoned nursing wing of St Paul’s Hospital.

The centre’s new, independent home, scheduled to open next year, will keep the drop-in program and more than double its residential capacity to 24 beds. The combination will be the first of its kind in Canada.

It won’t be like a traditional nursing home, promises the centre’s executive director, Maxine Davis. Residents will get their own studio apartments, as well as 24-hour nursing support. The traditional model, featuring rooms rather than private studios, “takes something away” from residents, Davis says. It undermines people’s privacy and dignity.

Having the day program in the same building should help residents feel less isolated, Davis continues. And the drop-in clients will, in turn, grow familiar with the centre’s studios and reduce their fear of someday having to move in permanently, Davis hopes.

The new centre will even boast a terrace overlooking the Mole Hill gardens. Clients will be able to sit and bask in the sun while they eat their lunch, Davis says. “For many people that is a luxury that is not afforded to them, yet it’s such a simple thing they want to experience.”

Hiscox says the centre’s new home will not only offer a more humane approach to AIDS care but a more efficient use of resources as well. He cites one study that shows that Dr Peter Centre clients generally reduce their hospital stays by 1400 days.

Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt says the money saved by the Dr Peter Centre could be re-invested in other sectors of AIDS care.

All three levels of government are contributing to the construction of the centre’s permanent home. Over the next 35 years, the BC Liberals will put in more than $9 million in capital and operating subsidies through their housing and health branches. The federal government added $286,000 under its housing branch and the city of Vancouver has leased the land, valued at $1.6 million, to the centre for $1.

Mayencourt says he is proud to see his government “step up to the plate” to provide comfort care for PWAs. He also says his government is committed to maintaining AIDS funding overall.

Former NDP MLA Tim Stevenson says he’s relieved the Liberals didn’t axe the Dr Peter Centre project.

Stevenson poured a lot of energy into securing funding for the centre’s permanent home when he was in office and was worried the Liberals would freeze the funds after they won the election last year.