Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond joined her legislative colleagues to announce a commitment to expanding the hospital.
Using the atrium of University Hospital of Northern BC as a back drop, Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond joined her legislative colleagues, Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, as well as officials with Northern Health and the Northern Medical Society, to announce a commitment to expanding the hospital. The medical community has been pushing for improvements to the surgical suites and a Steering Committee within Northern Health’s Board has had a concept plan, which includes a six-storey surgical tower, in place for some time.
The concept plan will move forward for the development of improved surgical services, including operating rooms, a post-anaesthetic recovery unit, pre-surgical screening and inpatient accommodation.
Planning will also include improvements to mental health services, including an adolescent psychiatric unit, substance-use services, a psychiatric intensive care unit and youth treatment centre.
Bond emphasized the planning will include cardiac care.
“Today is a very important day, not just in the history of the hospital but also for Northern British Columbia,” says Bond. “This is a regional centre. We deserve to have state-of-the-art infrastructure. So from my perspective, it’s one of those things that we have been working on tirelessly for months and we wanted to make sure that residents knew that we’re gonna move forward. So it’s a very, very important day today.”
Northern Health struck a Steering Committee looking at hospital expansion two years ago and, while today’s announcement gives the green light to move forward with a concept, one already exists.
“We’re talking about essentially an addition to the hospital, what is often referred to a a surgical tower, but there will be other functions in that building besides surgery,” explains Dr. Charles Jago, Chair of the Northern Health Board. “Up to date, modern. The kind of surgical suites that you need. Our suites are well out of date and small and crowded. Excellent work has been done there, but it doesn’t meet the standard of the day.”
The Northern Medical Society, which consists of local physicians, has been advocating for improvements to the hospital. It was part of a six-point plan set out five years ago. And it, too, has been part of this planning.
“We’ve been working on this for quietly for about 18 months, almost two years,” says Dr. Bill Simpson, President of the Northern Medical Society. “And it was only at the beginning that everything looked as if it was stalled that we said ‘Okay, this is not good enough. We need fast-track this.’ And that’s what’s happening.”
That, though, is the long-term plan.
In the short-term, the Province has committed $8 million to convert the second floor ultrasound and diabetes clinic to the fourth floor to make way for 27 new inpatient beds. It has also committed $4.5 million for electrical upgrades.
“Moving ultrasound is to create additional bed capacity. These projects will be underway right away,” explains Dr. Jago. “The same with the electrical power. As we expand the plant, we make more demands on the system. We’ve had series of blackouts; we’ve gotta get over that. So those are critical needs that we have to address right now.”
But he says the focus will be the redevelopment of the hospital in the long-term, something the Board has looked at already in 10-, 20- and 30-year increments.