Premier John Horgan, centre, flanked by Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley to the left and Health Minister Adrian Dix to the right, announces on Friday that the Cowichan Valley will have a new hospital built by 2024. (Photo by Robert Barron/Cowichan Valley Citizen)

Cowichan Valley to have a new hospital by 2024, Horgan announces

New facility to replace aging Cowichan District Hospital

The Cowichan Valley will have a new hospital built and ready for service by 2024, Premier John Horgan told an excited crowd at the Cowichan District Hospital Friday.

Horgan said the concept plan for the new hospital, which is expected to be triple the size of CDH with more beds and health services, has been approved and the business plan for the project should be completed within 12 to 18 months.

He said construction of the new hospital, which will be built on Bell McKinnon Road, should begin soon after the business plan, that will cover such issues as the scope of the facility, budget and procurement methods, is completed.

“The health providers at the CDH are top notch and the people of the Valley have been well served for 50 years by this old institution,” Horgan said.

“But upgrades are needed so that we can continue to provide state-of-the-art infrastructure for our state-of-the-art health providers so we’ll be building a new hospital for the people in this region. The new hospital will serve people in the Valley for decades to come, meaning better health care in their own backyard.”

Horgan said the fate of CDH and the property it is situated on will be determined at a later date.

The construction of a new hospital for the Valley has been considered to be Island Health’s number-one capital priority for years.

The Cowichan District Hospital was opened in 1967, and has 134 beds.

But since the hospital’s opening, the Valley’s population has more than doubled, and is expected to grow by another 20 per cent during the next few decades.

Horgan said the final cost of the new hospital has yet to be determined, but it was estimated that it would cost approximately $350 million when the idea was first raised a number of years ago.

In October, 2016, the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District purchased three properties, totalling 22 acres, on Bell McKinnon Road to construct the new hospital when it received the green light to proceed by the government.

The hospital district is responsible for 40 per cent of the new facility’s cost, with the province paying the rest.

Health Minister Adrian Dix, who was at the announcement with Horgan, said the capacity issues the CDH faces on a daily basis are frustrating for patients and the hospital’s health-care workers.

“It was critical that we take action,” he said.

“We received a concept plan (in February, 2018), and approved it within months, so work could get going as soon as possible, and people could have a new hospital.”

Dix said the government is moving ahead at record speeds to get the new hospital completed.

“I give thanks to the premier who really made this happen,” he said.

“The premier said clearly during the election campaign and after that this a priority for our government. I’m all fired up.”

Jon Lefebure, chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District, said the district is pleased to see this important project move forward and will continue to work with the province and Island Health to see it come to fruition.

“A new hospital is a major investment, by both the province and local taxpayers, in the long-term sustainability and resiliency of our region,” he said.

Sonia Furstenau, the Green MLA for Cowichan Valley and spokesperson for health, said she was thrilled with the announcement of a new hospital.

“Since becoming MLA for the region, I have heard from hospital staff struggling with low morale due to the over-stressed infrastructure,” she said.

“These health care providers work hard every day to provide the community with the essential care they need. This announcement will go a long way to restoring their sense of hope and optimism.”

Furstenau said she is looking forward to working with the people of Cowichan, including the indigenous communities, to ensure there is a level of input that will result in a hospital that reflects the Cowichan Valley.

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