Regional hospital eyes a multi-million plan

Big changes in the works at NRGH over the next few years

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is familiar to most people in District 69, but it could look very different in a few years’ time.

Speaking as a delegation to the Regional Hospital Board meeting in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) representative Chris Sullivan made that point abundantly clear as he presented an overview of the NRGH master site plan.

Sullivan said significant changes are being planned to the hospital in order to meet future needs. However, he noted a recent scope and service review showed that NRGH is providing an appropriate range of services for the communities it covers.

“There are areas for development in some sub-specialties, but basically it is providing good service,” he said, noting however that the 35,550 square metre facility will need to enlarge its capacity to meet future needs.

The changes, he said, are being planned in several steps, the first of which will be a new emergency department and psychiatric intensive care building on the north side of the hospital. Construction, he said, is slated to begin in September.

The $36.9-million project is needed, as the emergency department was originally built in 1963 to accommodate 6,000 visits per year and later expanded in 1991 to receive 15,000 visits annually. However, it is currently receiving a whopping 52,000 visits per year, or 246 per cent over its intended capacity.

Phase two involves an expansion to the energy plant, also on the north side of the building. Phase three involves a new inpatient tower, while phase four will involve an intensive care unit (ICU) and surgery expansion, to be located between the emergency department and the new pediatrics building.

Phase five would see a new ambulatory care building and would require the demolition of the current building, which was built in 1973 and which, Sullivan said, no longer meets VIHA standards.

Finally, the sixth phase of the program would see a new cancer centre located at the site, although Sullivan stressed this is just a conceptual plan at this point, in case such a centre is deemed necessary at a future date.

While phase one is set for construction, Sullivan said phases two to four are included in the VIHA major priorities list, while adding that other projects might be added in between, including renovation for the existing hospital area.

“The next steps will be consultation,” Sullivan said. “All projects are in the major project priority list but are subject to approvals from the province. They compare ours with other health authority projects. North Island is number one priority and number two is the Cowichan District Hospital replacement.”

He added that he isn’t sure whether phases two to four will be approved, while phases five and six are still in the conceptual stage at this point.

“We can’t plan projects until we know how the funding turns out,” he said.

The cost of each project hasn’t been entirely costed out yet, noting however it’s likely in the $20 million range for phases two to four. Of this, he said, the province will pay 60 per cent, with VIHA paying the other 40 per cent.

This didn’t sit entirely well with Qualicum Beach director Dave Willie, who said he had seen a figure of $27 for the energy plant alone and suggested the patient tower would be equal to that amount.

When Sullivan said it would be in the neighbourhood of $350 per square foot, Willie did some quick math.

“We’re looking at a $100 million hit for the tower alone,” Willie said.








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