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Petition on future uses of old Cowichan hospital reaches 2,000

Petition calls for hospital to continue to be used for medical purposes
The petition begun by community activist Peter Rusland urging the province and Island Health to keep the current Cowichan District Hospital in public hands and used for medical purposes when the new CDH opens in 2027 has reached 2,000 signatures. (Citizen file photo)

A petition started in July regarding the future of the aging Cowichan District Hospital on Gibbins Road has garnered more than 2,000 signatures so far.

Community activist Peter Rusland began the petition in an effort to convince Island Health and senior and local levels of government to keep the CDH, which will be replaced in 2027 by a new $1.4-billion hospital that is being constructed on Bell McKinnon Road, in public hands so it can continue to be used for medical purposes.

The petition, which Rusland hopes will see more than 10,000 people sign, calls on the provincial government and Island Health to preserve, re-purpose and recruit staff for future uses of the old hospital, and that it should be partnered with the new facility on Bell McKinnon Road.

Rusland said it appears many of the people who have signed the petition so far have indicated they would like to see the old CDH repurposed for public, medically related uses, including long-term care, cancer treatment and Alzheimer care, and some suggested it could be used for detox beds and/or keeping the current ER open as a walk-in clinic.

In response to Rusland’s inquiries about the future of the old CDH, which opened in 1967, Island Health’s Audrey Larson said there have been no decisions made on its future, and Island Health’s full focus remains on the new build at this time.


“Planning for the current site will not begin until we are farther along in our construction process,” she said.

“Community engagement will be a part of the planning process when we reach that phase. Right now, our focus remains on providing excellence in patient care in the current CDH, assuring that we have appropriate staffing levels through robust recruitment campaigns, and building a world-class hospital.”

However, Larson pointed out that many of the services the CDH currently provides are already being improved as part of Island Health’s Cowichan Health and Care Plan, which is a “sister project” to the new hospital and is a comprehensive initiative aimed at enhancing Island Health’s primary and community-based health services to help people in Cowichan maintain their health.


“The plan includes The Hamlets long term-care facility, the new seniors’ outpatient clinic in Duncan, enhancements to palliative and end-of-life care, the STEPS Program (Short Term Enablement Planning Suites), and a clinic for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, with continued planning for additional services tailored to meet health needs in Cowichan,” she said.

Rusland said Westley Davidson, project manager at the site of the new CDC, told him a public community feedback process focused on potential uses of the old CDH will take place by the middle of 2024.

“Our petition is not specific about repurposed uses, but opens the door to community input,” Rusland said.

“We informed Mr. Davidson we would keep Island Health apprised of petition numbers, plus rumours and other things we hear on the street about repurposing our current CDH.”

For more information on the petition, contact Rusland at

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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