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Clark pledges two new hospitals to be built 'as quickly as we possibly can'

Apr 27 2012
The construction of the new $266-million Campbell River and District General Hospital and $334-million Comox Valley hospital — projected for completion in 2017 — is estimated to create almost 2,000 direct jobs and almost 1,500 indirect jobs, according to the government. 

The construction of the new $266-million Campbell River and District General Hospital and $334-million Comox Valley hospital — projected for completion in 2017 — is estimated to create almost 2,000 direct jobs and almost 1,500 indirect jobs, according to the government.

Photograph by: . , timescolonist.com

Shovels will be in the ground early next year to start construction of two North Island hospitals, Premier Christy Clark said as she announced funding for the long awaited $600-million project.

"We want to see this hospital built as quickly as we possibly can because we know that residents here need it," said Clark during an announcement in the Comox Valley on Thursday. She later made a second stop in Campbell River.

The construction of the new $266-million Campbell River and District General Hospital and $334-million Comox Valley hospital - projected for completion in 2017 - is estimated to create almost 2,000 direct jobs and almost 1,500 indirect jobs, according to the government.

The procurement process will start immediately, with a contract being signed in about a year. The province will pay 60 per cent while the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District will pay 40 per cent.

In March 2006, consultants hired by the Vancouver Island Health Authority recommended the two aging hospitals be replaced by one new regional hospital. For the next few years, the health authority and the communities were embroiled in a bitter dispute as the communities fought for two separate hospitals.

VIHA president Howard Waldner said he's excited the province's funding announcement has finally come.

"It's taken us a while to get here, absolutely, but today the chairman of Comox-Strathcona regional hospital district [Claire Moglove] was very positive about the relationship and the plans we have going forward," he said.

The new 153-bed Comox Valley hospital will replace the 116-bed St. Joseph's General Hospital, which was built in 1937. The old facility will likely become a care facility.

The new facility will be located at the Lerwick and Ryan roads intersection, adjacent to North Island College, though that deal is not yet sealed. The design is expected to include three buildings for acute care, clinical support and parking.

"There was certainly a lot of community involvement both here and in Campbell River," said Mayor Paul Ives, "and at times it was difficult, but looking forward, this is a great investment of infrastructure into our community - probably the likes of which we won't see again in our lifetimes on the part of the provincial government."

There is some controversy in the community about the North Island College site, which Clark said was "the best of the bunch given the choices that we had. We just wanted to get on with it."

The new 95-bed Campbell River and District hospital will be built on the site of a 70-bed acutecare facility built in 1956 and renovated several times since then.

Design is expected to include three buildings for acute care, clinical support and parking.

Local physicians still have concerns about exactly what services and staffing the new regional hospital will offer.

The desire is that it has the same services as the old one - plus new services. The fear is that it will lose some services and not offer the "complete" suite, said Mayor Walter Jakeway.

"We want to make sure it has everything."

North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena said she was "very pleased" by the funding announcement and the speed with which the province plans to break ground, but she's also "very cautious that we'll get the services we want in both hospitals."

"We'll be watching them and making sure they are not scaling back," Trevena said.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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