The Cowichan Valley should consider itself very lucky to be getting a new hospital in 2024.
It’s not that we don’t need it, because we certainly do. But it’s clear from recent statistics that there are many other communities in British Columbia that are also in need of expanded hospital facilities.
Nearly 50 hospitals in the province are running above 100 per cent capacity, with Cowichan District Hospital falling 24th on that list this year. The province as a whole is running at 103.2 per cent occupancy.
Cowichan needs a new hospital not just because of the capacity issues. The structure itself is just old, which comes with problems. Bits of the facade have actually fallen off. And the numbers this year are a little better than in previous years which hit as high at 112 per cent above capacity.
But the most overwhelmed hospitals in the province are in the Fraser Valley and Northern B.C. Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James operated at 135.3 per cent capacity in 2018/19. This is the result of a lack of investment in new facilities for our communities over decades, as the population grew at the same time. Indeed, this has happened across Canada to many different types of infrastructure, and now the results are starting to show (the new high school announced to replace Cowichan Secondary is a good example).
What this means is that we are going to have to invest in a lot of new infrastructure in the coming years, from schools to roads, to hospitals, to bridges, tunnels and more. This work is being done in a piecemeal fashion by various levels of government from municipal to federal, and much of it probably should have been planned and started years before it becomes critical situation after critical situation. Going forward, our governments need to do a better job of taking inventory of the public facilities we have, figuring out their probable lifespans, and preparing (putting away money) for their inevitable replacements, and/0r major renovations — then scheduling what will be done when.