A new acute care tower for Richmond Hospital is on its way, announced Premier John Horgan Thursday morning.
Horgan, alongside Health Minister Adrian Dix in the hospital's Milan Ilich Pavilion, said the provincial government has approved the hospital tower’s concept plan and will now proceed to a business plan, which can take 12 to 18 months to finalize.
“Richmond has been waiting for good news about replacing the original tower which has served the community well since the 1960s, which is now out of date,” said Horgan.
“We are working to meet the needs of a rapidly growing community by moving forward with our partners to fund this redevelopment project. The new acute care tower will modernize Richmond Hospital for the coming decades and bring quality public health care to people who live and work here.”
Dix said that "Richmond’s population is growing quickly and is also ageing and we’re aware that people have been waiting for a long time for a new hospital tower.
"That’s why we’re proud to have taken decisive action very shortly after receiving the updated concept plan in early 2018. A new chapter for Richmond Hospital is now underway as we proceed with preparing the business plan, which is one of the final steps before construction commences.”
Vancouver Coastal Health and the Ministry of Health will work with the Richmond Hospital Foundation to confirm final funding contributions after a more detailed cost estimate is completed. Exact funding will be confirmed during the business planning stage.
In an interview with the News last week, Dix said the Ministry was dealing with a backlog of hospital concept plans. He said once a business plan is approved a project is “a done deal” and will be included in the subsequent budget.
If the business plan does take 18 months the government will be able to budget the hospital by February 2020.
The business plan will determine the scope of the project and its budget, although preliminary estimates from Vancouver Coastal Health pegged a new tower at about $283 million. Following approval the government will go to procurement of a contractor and then construction, which could then take three years, according to VCH.
Opened in 1966, the hospital’s north, acute care tower condition has been a widespread concern. According to a 2005 seismic report of the hospital, the tower would likely collapse, or partially collapse with “moderate shaking.” This fact was reiterated to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) in a 2011 report.
In a moderate earthquake of 5.0 to 5.9 on the Richter scale, all eight operating rooms and over half the beds would be at severe risk.
A delay by the BC Liberal government to take action on the tower resulted in the hospital becoming a political football in the 2017 election.
In June 2016 Richmond Centre’s BC Liberal MLA Teresa Wat announced the concept plan. In spring 2017 the concept plan was finished by VCH but it was never approved until Thursday.
In the past year municipal politicians from all flanks have petitioned and advocated for a new tower.
And the Richmond Hospital Foundation announced half of the $27 million donations made toward the tower were on the condition of a 2020 construction start date, which now appears to be possible.
The Foundation has noted it is willing to contribute $40-50 million of the projected costs.
Dix noted much consternation had been made by Wat that the 2018 budget did not include the Richmond Hospital project. However he noted a budget can only include approved business plans, and as such even a re-elected BC Liberal government could not have included the tower in a 2018 budget.
Dix said public concerns and those raised by Wat that the NDP would ignore the city of Richmond because it is a BC Liberal-stronghold are unfounded.
He noted the two overdue hospital concept plan approvals announced before Richmond came in the Liberal ridings of Terrace and Williams Lake.
“The evidence is, we’re acting in the public’s interest. Thinking otherwise, it creates cynicism in politics.”