Local officials hope plans to replace the aging Cowichan District Hospital will be expedited. (Citizen file)

Local officials hope plans to replace the aging Cowichan District Hospital will be expedited. (Citizen file)

Column: United community a big step towards new hospital for Cowichan

Work has put our region in the position of having all stakeholders in step on the hospital plan

By Sonia Furstenau

Minister of Health Adrian Dix came to the Cowichan Valley earlier this month to meet with those who have been involved in planning and fundraising for our new hospital. I felt tremendous pride listening to representatives from various health-related organizations — most of whom are volunteers — share their efforts, vision, and goals for our new hospital.

Their work has put our region in the unique position of having all stakeholders in step on the hospital plan. Together, they described our deep desire for the government to commit to this project amid concerns for the state of healthcare delivery at the current hospital, citing chronic overflow for beds, seismic risk, and an increasingly frustrated hospital staff who provide excellent healthcare in a sub-par environment.

This group has also ensured we are in great shape financially. In 2010, the CVRD had the foresight to establish a reserve fund for the new hospital. Today this fund sits at $34.6 million and will continue to grow annually. At the same time, the Cowichan Hospital Foundation (CHF) committed $1M and continues to contribute 20 per cent of funds raised for the new hospital. In 2015, CHF dedicated their full fundraising efforts to the hospital and the community responded by doubling the typical annual amount raised.

Minister Dix praised us for being united and commented that our fundraising efforts are extraordinary. While he didn’t promise that the new hospital would be in the spring budget, he did acknowledge that we have made a profound argument in our favour. The minister committed to respond quickly to our concept design submission and reminded us that we have a great deal of support in the legislature. However, hospitals take time to build. Once the province approves the concept design, the next step is to commit to funding a business case, which gets into the details of the hospital project.

The new Island Health Medical Officer for Cowichan Valley Dr. Shannon Waters said it best, “The process up to this point and beyond as we work together is just as important to the health of the people as having a new facility will be.”

Our dedicated community proved to Minister Dix we are ready for this hospital and the government knows it. We have a great financial base, we have selected the site and rezoning is in place, but most importantly, we are all working together towards the same goal.

Join me on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Duncan Community Lodge for a town hall meeting to learn more about the process and timelines for the new hospital.