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New Richmond Hospital gets green light

By Don Fennell

Published 4:36 PDT, Thu July 2, 2020

Richmond received some long-awaited good news today. A new state-of-the-art emergency department and intensive care unit for the community is on the way.

“People have been calling for a new tower at Richmond Hospital and our government took decisive action to make it happen,” says Premier John Horgan. “We’re proud to give the green light for a bigger, bolder plan for Richmond Hospital that will bring the facility into the 21st century and deliver the care Richmond needs.”

Horgan says there’s an added economic benefit, as the project will create thousands of jobs.

Detailed planning, currently underway, is expected to be completed in September. The project will then proceed to procurement and construction.

The province originally announced its commitment to replace the patient care tower in March 2018. At that time an eager crowd packed into the hospital atrium was told a business plan was expected to be completed in 12 to 18 months.

Richmond Hospital Foundation president and CEO Natalie Meixner has lobbied tirelessly for the upgrades. In welcoming today’s news, she paid particular homage to the many who have supported the initiative.

“Our community of philanthropic leaders will be ecstatic to learn about the additional services that will be included in the new acute care tower, and the opportunity for innovation that an expanded project scope will bring to Richmond,” she says. “People across our vibrant and diverse community have made commitments to help us reach 88 per cent of our $50 million goal, and we look forward to even greater philanthropic support and involvement from our donors in the future.”

Replacing the aging hospital follows years of angst.

Opened in 1966, Richmond Hospital’s operating rooms are only half the size of today’s standard and at risk in a flood or tsunami. And a structural assessment of the original tower deemed it to be at a high risk of widespread damage or structural failure after an earthquake.

As the structure continues to age, so too does a growing list of associated challenges. Elevators in its acute care tower suddenly stopped working one day a few years ago, forcing administrators to think quickly. Fortunately, they were able to call on a unique source for help: the movie industry was able to supply suitable cables until the elevators could be permanently repaired.

During the 42 years the hospital has been open, Richmond’s population has also more than quadrupled to over 200,000 residents. The hospital also serves South Vancouver, Delta, Vancouver International Airport and BC Ferries.

The replacement of the so-called north tower also addresses other deficiencies including outdated patient care delivery areas.

Richmond Hospital currently has 240 beds, with 108 in the original six-storey north tower which houses surgical suites, in-patient units, a mammography clinic, cancer care, medical imaging and administrative, academic and support services.

The new emergency department and intensive care unit will bring more services and better care. Double the existing floor space, the nine-floor tower will include a fully-equipped medical imaging department, intensive care unit, and pharmacy. The new concept also includes renovating the south tower to create new in-patient psychiatry and psychiatric units.

“The renewed and expanded concept plan reflects our government’s ongoing commitment to the people who live and work (in Richmond), ensuring that timely, quality public healthcare will be there for them now and in the future,” said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Dr. Penny Ballem, board chair of Vancouver Coastal Health, says taking bold steps now to increase and expand services “will allow to better service Richmond patients and clients for years to come.”

In 2017, the Richmond Hospital Foundation commissioned an independent public opinion poll to better understand what citizens of Richmond felt were the most important publicity-funded infrastructure needs. Eighty-five per cent placed a new hospital tower among the top two projects, and 52 per cent rated it as the No. 1 need.

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