Island Health hopes to submit its business plan for the new Cowichan District Hospital to the province by Jan. 1, 2020.
Dr. David William Robertson, medical director for Island Health in the Cowichan Valley, said it will then be up to the province to review and approve it, and once approved, it typically takes 3.5 to four years from that point for construction of the hospital to be completed.
But he said it would still take another few months beyond that to train the staff for the new facility before it’s ready to open.
“We started creating the business case (which is costing the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District $5.36 million to prepare) for the hospital last summer, and that process usually takes about 18 months to complete,” Robertson said.
“Building a new hospital, from the planning stages to completion, is a complex endeavour and it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Premier John Horgan told an excited crowd at the site of the current CDH on Gibbins Road last July that a new hospital, which is now estimated to cost approximately $600 million, on Bell McKinnon Road would be built and ready for service by 2024, and it looks like it may be on schedule if the province reviews and approves the business plan in a timely manner.
Robertson said Island Health has had dozens of meetings since last summer with more than 30 organizations and groups connected to the hospital, including clinical groups and food supply businesses, to determine their needs in a new facility.
“Determining how the new hospital will relate to the rest of the health care system in the Valley, as well as the rest of the Island, depending on population numbers and needs, is part of the development of the business case,” he said.
“We also had to do a geological analysis of the proposed site of the new facility so we can determine traffic patterns, flight paths for helicopters and other information. The piece of land where the hospital is planned to be built is on a slope, and that will also make a difference in how the building will be constructed.”
Robertson said after the business case is approved by the province, the project will then move into the design and construction phase, which will include determining the scale of the facility required.
“We’ll then develop the facility accordingly,” he said.
“It’s during that phase that we’ll determine issues like bus routes to the hospital, and even whether we’ll have electric charging facilities for vehicles for cars. Those decisions, including whether it will have paid parking or not, will be made years down the road from now.”
The construction of a new hospital for the Valley has been considered to be Island Health’s number-one capital priority for years.
The Cowichan District Hospital was opened in 1967, and has 134 beds.
But since the hospital’s opening, the Valley’s population has more than doubled, and is expected to grow by another 20 per cent during the next few decades.
The Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District purchased three properties, totalling 22 acres, on Bell McKinnon Road in 2016 to construct the new hospital.