Optics of a new Cowichan District Hospital still being focused

Cowichan District Hospital is number one on the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s list of facility priorities. - Andrew Leong/file
Cowichan District Hospital is number one on the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s list of facility priorities.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Is a new Cowichan District Hospital possible on the school board's Beverly Street site?

Call that property, and other possible places, a distant maybe, according to local leaders and heath authority brass.

"VIHA has not yet determined if a new hospital would be built on the existing CDH site, or at an alternate site," Val Wilson of the Vancouver Island Health Authority emailed the News Leader Pictorial last week.

The school board office site emerged in recent weeks as a popular rumoured CDH destination after school brass announced plans in May to eventually move operations to a vacant school.

"That site (SD79 land) has been mentioned as a potential location," says an email from Rob Hutchins, CVRD chairman, "but it's one of five I know of that have also been mentioned. The criteria has not yet been established for the site selection, and the process has not been finalized, so it would be premature to begin speculation on potential sites."

Selection processes could start in a couple of months, he notes.

VIHA and Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District brass are slowly sifting data showing swelling demand for medical care will outstrip supply of staffing, beds and services at the busy hospital by around 2020.

Cpnsiderations outlined in CDH's June 2010 master site plan have prompted initial scouting for a new CDH property.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said he assumed all possible places will be mulled for a new CDH, if it's decided the aging facility will leave its Gibbins Road home.

"I don't know if they've considered that (SD79) site, but it's not unreasonable that it could be considered."

Wilson explains site specifics are still smoky.

"VIHA and the CVRHD are discussing what such a land search would involve, and what the expectations and needs regarding a location and acquisition process would be. At this point there is no formal agreement between VIHA and the CVRHD."

She echoed Hutchins' cautious approach about whether to use provincial bucks to either renovate the current CDH, build a new hospital on site, or erect a new facility elsewhere.

"There is still an enormous amount of planning work to be done. At this point there is no provincial funding for this project," Wilson says, "and we recognize the multiple capital priorities the province has before it, along with its limited fiscal resources."

Still, CDH is VIHA’s number-one major capital priority now that site purchasing for two new hospitals is underway in Campbell River and Comox Valley, she explains.

"Cowichan District Hospital is functionally obsolete, has aging infrastructure and does not meet the community's needs as well as it should.

"Given this, VIHA is actively planning for a new or renewed health care facility in the Cowichan Valley. This planning includes service requirements, a range of the number of beds, physical space requirements, adjacencies of other services, etc."

CDH's master site plan poses ideas of rebuilding or renovating on the Gibbins site or erecting a new CDH elsewhere, but makes no recommendations as it projects the hospital's growing needs. It does, however, provide figures spanning administrative, and in-patient support, to future logistics such as security, dietary and biomedical engineering.

Using 'right-sizing' data, CDH's 91 beds needed in 2007 would rise to 104 by 2015, then to 114 by 2020, the plan suggests. Use of the Emergency Room, where 27,000 patients were treated in '07, is expected to increase to 32,000 by 2021.

The plan notes CDH's emergency ward is crowded, and undersize for storage and staff needs, patient privacy, and more.

It's a similar story in the operating rooms, where 2007 saw 5,000 surgeries; 12,000 were projected by 2020.

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