Al Siebring wants to see free public parking at the Cowichan Valley’s new hospital, which is expected to be completed by 2024.
Siebring, mayor of North Cowichan, said it has been a long tradition at the current Cowichan District Hospital on Gibbins Road to have free parking, and he wants to see that tradition continue at the new hospital, which will be built on Bell McKinnon Road.
“A hospital is a place where people go because they are sick, and they should not have to pay for parking there,” Siebring said.
He said the issue was raised at a recent meeting that included elders from Cowichan Tribes and officials from Island Health, which is responsible for the construction of the new, approximately $600-million facility.
Siebring said that during the construction of the new hospital in Campbell River, that community’s city council passed resolutions to abolish pay parking at their new hospital and other public lands within the city’s boundaries, including schools, churches, museums, parks and the city’s own recreation complexes.
Despite original plans by Island Health to have pay parking at the Campbell River hospital, the health authority eventually buckled to public pressure and announced it would not be charging the public, staff, volunteers or physicians for parking at the hospital either.
“I intend to put this to North Cowichan’s council if Island Health does plan to have pay parking at the new Cowichan District Hospital,” Siebring said.
“We had the same discussions when the new Vancouver Island University campus was being constructed in the Valley (in 2011) while I was chairman of the Island Savings Centre Commission. VIU intended to have pay parking on campus, which would have pushed all that parking onto the Island Savings Centre. In the end, they were forced to back down.”
The concept plan for the new Cowichan District Hospital, which is expected to be much larger than the current aging facility, with more beds and health services, was approved last summer and the business plan for the project is expected to be completed within the next three to six months.
Construction of the new hospital, which is considered Island Health’s number one capital priority, should begin soon after the business plan is complete.