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What will happen to St Paul’s site after the hospital moves?

Providence Health Care launches community forums on where to deliver which services

Breann Specht of Vancouver Coastal Health sorts through issues raised by West End residents as they discuss the future of St Paul’s Hospital, at a community forum on Feb 16, 2016. Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

The anger over moving St Paul’s Hospital from the West End to False Creek Flats is still simmering but West End residents now want to know what will happen to the hospital’s current Burrard Street site — and what that means for health care downtown.

The concerns were raised Feb 16, 2016 as Providence Health Care, the hospital’s operator, held the first of eight community forums to hear what residents want from the new hospital.

After a decade of promises from the provincial Liberal government that the hospital would be revitalized in its current West End location, the government suddenly announced in April 2015 that a new 1.2-billion facility would instead be built on False Creek Flats near Main and Terminal streets.

Providence now says it’s seeking public input on which health services should be delivered at the new hospital and “which services could be in other settings — such as primary and community care — to further address the continuing needs of such local neighbourhoods as the West End and downtown Vancouver.”

“We want to connect the new hospital with a number of primary care, community health services and support programs, both on the Station Street health campus and in your neighbourhoods in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health and other providers to meet your health care needs,” Providence writes in its public invitation to attend the forums.

“Your feedback will be used to inform decision making for our academic clinical services plan for the new St Paul’s,” it adds.

(A site map of the new St Paul’s Hospital on the False Creek Flats was displayed at the Feb 16 community forum.)

Working with the City of Vancouver, Providence says it “will lead a planning and public consultation process focused on the redevelopment of the future St Paul’s site on Station Street.”

David Thompson, Providence’s vice president of seniors care and chief quality, safety and performance improvement officer, told a crowd of about 80 residents, health care providers and Providence staff at the first community forum Feb 16 that the new hospital will be a high-tech facility with emergency, cardiac and transplant care, and single-patient rooms to ensure privacy and infection control.

But relocating a major hospital brings many questions and concerns, Thompson acknowledged.

“We want to hear about them from you,” he told the crowd.

West End residents such as Carol Jerde say the need for health care in the West End is growing, not diminishing, as more high rises are constructed downtown.

“The whole community needs a hospital — or at least some very basic primary care,” Jerde stresses.

“I don’t think anybody wants anymore condos on that [Burrard Street] site,” she adds. “It’s a case of what can be saved on that site.”

The executive director of the West End Seniors Network is concerned that doctors will leave the area after the hospital moves, making it hard for seniors and disabled people to keep health appointments.

“It’s not just about emergency [health care],” Anthony Kupferschmidt says. “It’s about all the clinics that our residents walk to on a daily basis.”

Strathcona resident Chris Coleman says the False Creek Flats development threatens the Downtown Eastside too. He says hospital staff would want to live closer to work, creating a further housing crush in an already-marginalized neighbourhood.

Even the site of the new hospital drew criticism. Residents questioned why it would be built on allegedly soft land at the end of False Creek.

A 2010 Daily Xtra investigation into the False Creek Flats proposal found the land was owned by The Esperanza Society, which has ties to Liberal Party contributors, Providence Health Care and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The non-profit society purchased the land in March 2004, one year after Providence floated its proposal to relocate the hospital to the area.

Premier Christy Clark said in June 2012 that half a billion dollars was earmarked to redevelop St Paul’s on Burrard Street, but the money never appeared in budget documents and the promised business plan to keep the hospital in the West End never materialized.

Posters at the Feb 16 forum now say a business plan will be ready this fall with the hospital completed in 2023.

Providence Health Care plans to hold seven more community forums from Feb 16–March 10 on the hospital’s future, in both the west and east ends of the city.