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Will St Paul’s Hospital get money in upcoming BC budget?

Providence says concept plan is with ministry

Concept plans for the redevelopment of St Paul's Hospital on Burrard Street have been in the works for years. Credit: Xtra files

Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert is hoping the provincial government will put money forward in the Feb 18 provincial budget for the long-promised redevelopment of St Paul’s Hospital.

The NDP member of the BC legislature says he spoke with Providence Health Care board chair Geoff Plant in November about progress on the plans.

“He told me the concept plan has been approved,” Chandra Herbert says. “It’s ready to go; there’s no more work required.”

Shaf Hussain, spokesperson for Providence, which runs the hospital, tells Xtra the plan is now with the Ministry of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.

“It’s quite a complex process. A lot of analysis and research has to happen,” Hussain says.

He says the next phase will be the development of a business case plan.

“The business case is the real detailed planning stuff,” Hussain says. “It needs to be approved by treasury board.”

According to the Ministry of Health 2013/14–2015/16 Service Plan released by Finance Minister Mike de Jong in February 2013, a final concept plan and detailed business plan for redevelopment was expected to be completed by 2014.

“Exact timeframes of the project will be determined during the business plan process. Redevelopment may include construction of an outpatient care tower and infrastructure (including seismic) upgrades to existing buildings. The renewal of the hospital will ensure accessible and efficient health care services that can meet the growing demand,” that service plan says.

Concept plans (precursors to the business plan) for the hospital’s redevelopment have been in the works for years.

Chandra Herbert says Premier Christy Clark announced $500 million for the hospital’s redevelopment in 2012, but nothing appeared in the subsequent budget.

“If they were serious, you would think there would be money in the upcoming budget,” he says.

Chandra Herbert says he would like to see money in the budget for the business case to move forward and for demolition work to start on old buildings at the Burrard Street site.

The MLA says he wrote to the minister of health outlining his concerns in November but is still waiting for a response. He says he has also filed several access-to-information requests.

“This government is not proactive in sharing information about this hospital,” he says. “It’s an embarrassment for them, I think.”

The topic of healthcare received 60 words in the Feb 11 provincial throne speech, the precursor to the presentation of the budget.

“To ensure our healthcare remains the best in Canada, we must continue to innovate. We must find new ways to invest every health dollar to achieve the best outcomes for patients,” Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon said in the throne speech.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Ryan Jabs says the government remains firmly committed to redeveloping St Paul’s Hospital.

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

“Redeveloping St Paul’s Hospital is not as simple as building a new hospital on vacant land, and it’s not a small redevelopment,” Jabs says. “It is a complex project on a very busy site offering care to a large population. The current building is over 100 years old, and it’s in the middle of a very dense area of the city of Vancouver. We must get the planning process right, as we need the redeveloped hospital to effectively serve the current population during the redevelopment — and in the next 100 years.”

The province had at one point been paying $800,000 a year in Vancouver municipal taxes on False Creek land touted as a site for a new billion-dollar hospital. That plan was eventually abandoned and, in June 2012, Clark committed the half a billion dollars to redevelop the hospital at its current West End site.

On Feb 20, 2013, a request for proposals was issued to provide architectural services for the project.

The St Paul’s Hospital redevelopment project envisions a new state-of-the-art centre of health innovation, care and research, housing numerous hospital outpatient clinics, diagnostic care and same-day surgical services. It will also include important upgrades to existing buildings, including seismic and operational improvements, a news release at the time said.

The request for proposals invited architects to submit proposals to provide managing consultant and architectural services for the conceptual design of an ambulatory care building.