Bell McKinnon Road site picked for new hospital

Three properties on Bell McKinnon Road have been selected to potentially house the new Cowichan District Hospital.

Three properties on Bell McKinnon Road have been selected to potentially house the new Cowichan District Hospital.

The Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District made the announcement Monday following two years of site scrutiny.

“It’s great news,” said CVRHD chair Jon Lefebure. “It’s not finished yet. That’s one thing that needs to be noted.”

While the site has been identified as preferred, the purchase of 6751, 6771 and 6793 Bell McKinnon Road is subject to rezoning to permit a hospital use, and moreover, the site must meet the approval of Island Health.

Lefebure said the latter shouldn’t be an issue as the health authority has been working together with the CVRHD over the course of the selection process.

“They’ve been at the table the whole time but they’re eventually going to own it so my understanding is that they have to have the final approval on it,” he said. “With all we’ve done to include them along the way, we expect that to happen but that still has to be noted.”

Just a short distance southeast of where Herd Road/Highway 18 intersects with the Trans Canada Highway, the properties are in a residential area outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve within North Cowichan’s urban growth boundary.

It was selected from a crop of 34 potential sites identified through the combination of a public expression of interest process and a land consultant working on behalf of the CVRHD.

Lefebure said a new hospital is still likely five or 10 years out but the goal of local governments, and the CVRHD was to be prepared with a site and money in the bank should Island Health declare Cowichan was next in line for a new hospital.

“Our intention was to be as advanced as possible so that we are ahead of the game,” he said.

A new hospital for the Cowichan Valley will still require provincial government approval; no approvals or funding are in place at this time. But the CVRHD has been saving for years.

“We know that over time putting money aside as opposed to borrowing will certainly cost our residents far less if we can put a little aside every year,” Lefebure said.

To date the CVRHD has put $22.6 million in a reserve fund in order to ensure the funds are there to pay for its 40 per cent share of the new hospital.

Island Health spokesperson Kellie Hudson said her group is please to have the CVRDH on board as a “keen and active” partner in the eventual renewal of Cowichan’s hospital.

“While it is important to note that this is a long-term strategy, and a new hospital for the Cowichan Valley does not have approval or funding at this point in time, we are grateful for the RHD’s enthusiasm and its ongoing support of this and other health care related projects,” Hudson said.