There are growing calls from Richmond city councillors for the provincial government to commit funding to an expansion of the only hospital in the rapidly growing municipality.
Municipal politicians want to see concrete action soon on a new acute tower at Richmond Hospital, which they say will provide much-needed additional capacity and make the facility seismically resilient.
The 321,000-sq-ft, eight-storey project was first announced by the former BC Liberal government in 2016, when provincial officials said they would work with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Richmond Hospital Foundation (RHF) on creating plans for the new facility.
Now, the municipality wants next week’s provincial budget to include funding for the acute tower, and they say a recent online petition with over 1,800 signatories to date expresses the public’s strong support for the project.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Richmond Hospital has one bed available per 1,000 people living in Richmond, the fewest of any hospital in British Columbia,” said Councillor Derek Dang. “We’re not asking for special treatment, we’re asking for equal treatment – and right now we’re far from it.”
Councillor Bill McNulty added: “Our community is united calling for a replacement of our 50-year old acute care tower and today we’re calling on the Premier to act.”
And Councillor Linda McPhail commented that “doctors and medical professionals are sounding the alarm about the need for change.”
No dollar figure has been made public for the project, but it is expected to be similar as the $200-million expansion being built at North Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital.
To date, the RHF says it has fundraised $27 million of the $40 million it will commit towards the new tower.
For years, there have been safety fears with the existing 1966-built tower after two studies performed in 2005 and 2011 deemed that the tower would not be able to withstand even a magnitude 5.0 earthquake.
With other hospitals seeing renewal and replacement, Richmond Hospital is now one of the region’s most unsafe major hospital facilities – alongside St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver.
It could potentially incur major structural damage or collapse during a relatively modest seismic event – a magnitude 5.0 earthquake – as the current tower only meets 17% of modern seismic standards.
The building and its equipment and infrastructure have been deemed 79% deficient and obsolete with failing systems.
A new seismically-sound, state-of-the-art hospital with the latest hospital equipment facilities and technologies would include more private rooms to increase privacy and reduce the exposure to infections, which can be fatal to some patients.
Its operating rooms are also too small – just half the size of current standards – and cannot accommodate all of the state-of-the-art surgical equipment used for today’s procedures. The proposed tower calls for between eight to 10 new and larger state-of-the-art operating rooms.
To control the spread of infections, the current hospital standard is 80% single-patient rooms, but Richmond Hospital has only 10% single-patient rooms, with most rooms now accommodating three to four patients.
It also lacks a state-of-the-art medical equipment sterilization facility, which is something a new tower would provide.
When Richmond Hospital first opened its doors, the municipality had a population of only 50,000, but this has since grown to about 220,000. It is also the closest hospital to Vancouver International Airport, which is quickly growing into a major hub with 31 million passengers per year expected by 2022.
Changing demographics and continued population growth will place more pressure on the hospital, as Richmond’s population is expected to increase quickly to 252,000 by 2031 and 275,000 by 2041.
Additionally, according to RHF, Richmond has the fastest growing senior population in the province: The number of seniors living in the municipality will grow from 31,000 in 2014 to 45,000 in 2019. By 2030, the number of people over the age of 65 will reach 65,000.
The city’s population has quadrupled since the hospital opened, but the number of beds – from 132 beds to 223 beds – has not even doubled.
Other major hospital redevelopment projects planed or already in progress in the region include: