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Plenty of potential hospital sites to choose from

Signs point to a new Cowichan Hospital being purchased as soon as possible, but the process is still expected to take quite some time. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Signs point to a new Cowichan Hospital being purchased as soon as possible, but the process is still expected to take quite some time.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

Cowichanians know plenty of places our new hospital can go.

Thirty-eight, in fact.

Rob Hutchins, Cowichan Valley Regional District chairman, says a recent public call for site suggestions for the planned Cowichan District Hospital reached 41 ideas, though three were overlaps.

“We actually received 20 site ideas, and our site selection consultant identified another 21,” he told the News Leader Pictorial.

“It certainly exceeded my expectations.

“I believe there were 38 site that met the criteria. This is excellent news.”

Site-musts listed by a technical committee, comprising agents with the CVRD, Island Health, and McElhanney consulting engineers, span access to an air ambulance corridor, access to community services such as water and sewer lines, location outside Cowichan’s floodplain, proximity to major roads, a quiet, healing location, and more.

The land must also measure about 15 acres to meet current needs, and future growth — and fit local official community plan guidelines, Hutchins explained.

The criteria will now be fine-tuned to filter the 38 candidate sites. He expected a short-list by mid-May. Then a more detailed evaluation process will whittle the suggested sites further.Hutchins was unaware of specific locations

The new CDH might go to replace the 45-year-old facility off Gibbins Road, where a chronic shortage of staffed beds plagues a maximum patient load.

An IH master-site plan explained a passel of problems if the new hospital were build there. For one thing, CDH’s vital medivac helipad would be grounded during four to five years of construction.

The Gibbins site is also sloped, posing seismic and design glitches. Disruption of patients and staff, plus additional construction costs — before the current facility was demolished — posed worries too.

Those issues would also plague an option of adding new wings to asbestos-lined CDH, officials have explained.

“The recommendation from the master site plan is to look for another site,” Hutchins said of Island Health’s 2010-11 document.

It’s ordered mapping of the valley’s 500-year flood areas to ferret historically dry properties — of various, unknown prices — for the new CDH, which is estimated to cost about $350 million-plus, and serve Cowichanians for about 50 years.

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