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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Comox Valley Hospital on Crown Isle Site

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Comox Valley Hospital on Crown Isle Site

Spencer Anderson, Comox Valley Echo

After weeks of speculation, the preferred site for the proposed Comox Valley Hospital is now known.

That site is 15 acres of Crown Isle land, located on the north side of Ryan Road, about halfway between Lerwick and Anderton (past the car dealerships), with an option to add five more acres as needed.

The announcement was made at the Vancouver Island Health Authority's general board meeting in Courtenay on Wednesday. VIHA president and CEO Howard Waldner said the announcement would allow the North Island Hospitals Project, which includes a proposed new hospital in Campbell River, to proceed crafting a business case to present to the government.
Should the government accept the business case, Strathcona and Comox Valley Regional District taxpayers will foot 40 per cent of the projected $550-million bill. The province would pick up the remaining 60 per cent.
Groundwork for the hospital would not be expected to start until about 2013 - and then there would be approximately 36 months of construction work after that.

"[The site selection] allows us to move forward with real numbers, real thoughts, real issues, so we can make sure that business case is absolutely crystal clear and the costing is absolutely firm," said Waldner.

Waldner said he and the Board were "very excited" about the announcement, and added the close proximity of the site to North Island College would provide an opportunity to train students at the hospital.

Charlie Cornfield, the chair of the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, agreed.

"This site was the last piece of the puzzle that was needed to produce a comprehensive business case to take forward to the provincial government...," he said. "[VIHA's] commitment to train students at our two new hospitals will provide opportunities for the young people of the North Island to learn and work at home."

Comox Valley MLA Don McRae called the announcement "very exciting news".

Grant Hollett, the project director for the B.C. Government North Island Hospitals Project Board, told the attendees of the public meeting that the $3-million business case for the hospital could be completed as soon as fall of this year.

The proposed Comox Valley hospital would provide for 150 to 160 new beds. But the estimated $550-million cost is at this stage a very imprecise estimate, said Hollett.

Over the next few months, that number will firm up as VIHA and the Project Board prepares the business case, with the help of a recently announced consulting team.

In the short term, information will be gathered from "user groups" - doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers - at the existing hospitals. Hollett said that process could start at St. Joseph's as early as next week.

Hollett also said he hopes to have local patient and family advisory committees set up in the next two to three weeks, and noted that consultation with First Nations groups began in fall of last year.

"[Hospitals] are symbols of communities," Hollett said. "They are, I think, strongly connected to the fabric of communities. They do become a place of pride, where the community has an opportunity to express how it feels about health..."

In the longer term, putting together the business plan will entail identifying space requirements for the building, layout and detailed designs crafted by architects, culminating in an "indicative design".

The next stage consists of sophisticated costing analysis and technical, operational and procurement cost studies - the conclusion of which will result in a "fairly precise" cost estimate for the hospital.

In September 2009, consulting firm Fletcher Pettis suggested a preliminary list of 22 possible locations. That number was reduced to just six in September 2010 after the consultant was asked to draft a revised list.

The Project Board narrowed that list of six to the top three choices, and eventually settled on the Crown Isle site, but Hollett declined to identify what the rejected locations were.

VIHA's Suzanne Germain said the negotiated price for the 15 acres at Crown Isle is $4 million. However, the landowner, Silver Sand Land Corp., has agreed to donate $1 million of that.


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