Provincial nod could see plan for new Cowichan hospital within a year

A brand new hospital in the Cowichan Valley may be one step closer.

A brand new hospital in the Cowichan Valley may be one step closer.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake has recommended that the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District move forward into the conceptual-planning phase for a new, approximately $350-million Cowichan District Hospital after meeting with hospital board members this week.

Jon Lefebure, chairman of the CVRHD, cautioned that the recommendation still has to be discussed at the hospital board’s next meeting on Oct. 12 and with Island Health before final decisions are made on Lake’s recommendation for the conceptual plan.

But he said he was “very encouraged” by the Minister’s support to have the long-anticipated project move into its next phase.

“I’ve been working towards building a new hospital in the Valley since 1999, and this is the first time I can see the potential to take a significant step forward,” Lefebure said from the ongoing Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Victoria, where his delegation met with Lake.

“There’s still no provincial budget for new hospitals at this time, but, like the purchase of the land for a new hospital that the board has already made, we always like to be as proactive as possible on this project to move it forward.”

The CVRHD has recently purchased three properties in the Bell McKinnon Road area after the Municipality of North Cowichan met the deadline of July 31 to rezone the properties to allow a hospital.

The new facility, if given the green light to proceed, would replace the more than 40-year-old hospital on Gibbins Road.

Lefebure said if the hospital district and Island Health agree to begin the conceptual planning for the new hospital, Lake suggested an eight to 12-month time frame to complete it.

He said a conceptual plan would likely include the proposed design of the interior of the building and how many beds would be required.

Lefebure said he expects conceptual plans from hospitals that have been built, or are in the process of being built, from other areas of the Island could be used as templates to help develop the plans for the Valley’s new hospital.

The CVRHD would be responsible for covering 40 per cent of the cost of the new hospital, with Island Health and the province picking up the rest of the tab.

The hospital district has put aside more than $27 million in a reserve fund for the project so far, and Lefebure suggested that the funding for the conceptual plan could come from that.