After years of negotiation and preparation, the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District transferred 9.22 hectares of land on Bell McKinnon Road to Island Health on March 25 for the construction of the new $887.4-million Cowichan District Hospital.
As part of the land transfer, Island Health purchased the three land parcels on Bell McKinnon Road in North Cowichan from the CVRHD for approximately $3.4 million.
At a news conference on April 1, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced that the government has issued a request for proposals for the first of a two-stage competitive process to design and construct the new hospital, which will replace the aging Cowichan District Hospital on Gibbins Road.
Dix said two teams, Alliance Care Partners and EllisDon + Parkin, have been shortlisted to participate in the first stage, and the RFP has been issued to them.
The RFP process is expected to culminate in a preferred proponent for the project in early 2022, and construction is anticipated to begin the same year with the new hospital ready for patients in 2026.
“Now more than ever, we recognize the critical importance of our health-care system, and our commitment to replace Cowichan District Hospital acknowledges the priority we place on timely access to high quality health-care services close to home,” Dix said.
“These key milestones bring us closer to getting shovels in the ground to bring the very best health-care facility to the growing communities of the Cowichan Valley.”
Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said the announcements mark a huge day for the Cowichan Valley.
“It’s been generations of people to get to this point, but it’s finally happening,” he said.
“The Valley has achieved another huge goal by working together.”
North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas said there were concerns in the Bell McKinnon community around traffic, speed and other issues when it was first announced that the new hospital was to built in their neighbourhood.
“We’ve made great strides forward since then and now the community has embraced this project,” he said.
“These announcements are exciting for North Cowichan and for everyone in the Valley.”
The new hospital is anticipated to be about 496,000 square feet, nearly three times larger than the current facility.
The scope of the project includes 201 acute inpatient beds, up from the 134 in the current facility.
The new hospital’s emergency department will triple in size and accommodate 42,000 visits a year, while the number of treatment spaces will increase from 17 to 36, with two trauma bays, rapid access and discharge space, fast-track streaming space and a dedicated acute psychiatric space with two seclusion rooms.
There will be an increase of three operating rooms, for a total of seven, with one operating room dedicated to C-sections, and medical imaging at the new hospital will include increased CT scanning capacity and built-in magnetic resonance imaging.
Mental health services will include a 17-bed inpatient psychiatry unit with access to secure outdoor space and a four-bed psychiatric intensive care unit.
A new birthing unit with capacity for 10 maternity beds and a nursery for families and new moms will be included, and a new labour, delivery, recovery and postpartum maternity care model will provide mothers with a place to give birth and stay in the same room with their infants until they are discharged.
Culturally safe services and spaces will be incorporated into the new hospital to accommodate traditional healing practices, cultural ceremonies and room for loved ones to support patients during stays.
The hospital will also be a training site for medical students and residents in the University of British Columbia Island Medical Program.
There will be 800 parking spots, about double the number of spaces at the current hospital.