Tofino pushing for new hospital

Island Health cautions that process can take over seven years

Tofino is pushing for its local hospital, which serves the entire West Coast, to be replaced.

Mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News that the current hospital opened in 1954, when the town’s population totalled around 400 people.

“Health care was delivered differently then, and our population has grown and our needs have changed dramatically since the 1950s,” she said. “Our hospital and its terrific staff has tried hard to keep up with the pace of change, but limited upgrades and modifications just cannot serve this region anymore, particularly because the building could not make it safely through a major earthquake.”

She added that the West Coast will need to work together to raise a unified voice in its lobbying efforts.

“We need a facility, or a set of facilities, that will survive an earthquake, that are designed for modern health care delivery, and that can deliver services in more culturally appropriate ways with the space, safety, privacy, and dignity that people need when they’re focused on getting well,” she said.

“The Tofino General Hospital Foundation has taken the lead on pushing for the replacement hospital with strong support from the region’s community leaders in both municipalities [Tofino and Ucluelet] and First Nations, and it is going to take a concerted effort of lobbying, fundraising, and community support to drive this through in the next few years. The capital planning process is not simple, and working in collaboration with Island Health and the Ministry of Health is also essential.”

An Island Health spokesperson told the Westerly News that the West Coast’s hospital is on a priority list, but it’s not its turn yet.

“The Tofino General Hospital was built in 1954 and Island Health recognizes the need to address the aging infrastructure, which could include replacement,” the spokesperson said.

“Replacement of Tofino General Hospital is on a priority list of major projects currently being reviewed as part of the long term capital planning process. But, it’s important to note the list has many competing priorities. Once a project is identified as a high priority relative to other Island Health capital projects, it would then require provincial funding approval, which would be considered relative to other competing projects and priorities in all sectors across the province, not just healthcare.”

They said Island Health top projects identified for this year are the replacement of the Cowichan District Hospital and a new building to accommodate replacement of the Intensive Care Unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

The steps that need to be taken for Tofino General to be replaced include a concept plan that identifies a need to replace the existing hospital followed by a business case laying out how the hospital will be replaced and a procurement process to determine who will build the hospital and how. Once that’s sorted, design and construction work would follow as well as an operations plan.

“It’s important to remember that this is a long process that can take place over seven-plus years. Each phase builds on the previous one, and planning gets more detailed and granular, right up to construction and eventually opening for patients,” the spokesperson explained.

They noted that Island Health confirmed its commitment to replacing the Cowichan District Hospital facility in 2013 and approved a concept plan for the facility last year.

“That project is now in the early Business Case phase and, if the Business Case is approved by government and the project proceeds, we estimate a new hospital in Cowichan will open in late 2024,” they said.

They added that if a replacement hospital for Tofino found its way to the top of the priority list, funding would still need to be worked out.

“The cost of a new hospital is contingent upon many different factors, many of which are identified in the Business Case phase, where details such as scope, budget, bed numbers and procurement method are finalized,” they said.

They said the provincial government typically funds about 60 per cent of a new hospital’s building costs with the remaining 40 per cent coming from the Regional Hospital District—in Tofino’s case, the Alberni-Clayoquot RHD.

READ MORE: Tofino’s housing crisis spilling into hospital

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andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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