Military hospital faces wrecking ball

Health minister Margaret MacDiarmid says 1940's building out of date

The proposal for re-zoning that would allow for a new development at B.C. Childrens and Womens Hospital on Oak Street is going to a public hearing in December after a unanimous vote from city council this week.

If allowed, the Acute Care Centre would create additional emergency room services and larger operating rooms for short-term patients, but also necessitate the destruction of much of the Shaughnessy Military Hospital heritage site.

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Minister of Health Margaret MacDiarmid said the facilities are old and overcrowded and as a result the hospitals are unable to provide the care theyd like.

The design is just not there at all given the way things have changed in medicine, said MacDiarmid, who is also a medical doctor. Theres more equipment now and not enough room in the hospital for state of the art treatment.

Dave Ingram, the chief project officer responsible for the development, said those are the kinds of design issues the new building would fix. The number of care providers involved is growing and so is the nature of the equipment. We need to have the right sized rooms to accommodate that, said Ingram.

He said older buildings such as the historic Shaughnessy Medical Hospital on the site arent fit for their purposes going forward. Now, they just use the site for administration and day clinics.

But the president of the heritage advocacy group Heritage Vancouver Society says hes disappointed more effort wasnt made to keep the historic Shaughnessy Medical Hospital structure.

We were hoping that part of the hospital could be saved and that there would be some recognition of its importance, said Don Luxton.

The building was built in 1940 and, according to Luxton, features art panels in the main entry of significance and immense historical value. His group has listed the building in their top 10 endangered sites.

Still, Luxton said the heritage group thought the news was inevitable considering the frequency demolition happens to institutional heritage buildings in Vancouver.

The development will be discussed at the December public hearing, but the public will not have access to as much detail about the project as for regular projects, as the building is considered a public private partnership. These P3 partnerships are contracts between the government and private businesses where assets and risks are shared by both parties.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr said the P3 process is less democratic and citizens are given fewer details to respond to.

You have less detail thats been available to the public and council, which in my mind, is not as good, said Carr. The process is one in which there is less detail in the scope of what the design will look like, which to me is a flaw in the process.

While not clear if hell be attending the public hearing to voice Heritage Vancouvers concerns, Luxton said the group plans to at least document its concerns about the buildings moving forward.

There are many issues in health care, which we recognize. We felt there was a way to develop a way for the site that would have been more sensitive for heritage issues.

Twitter: @mickicowan

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