Healthcare facility proposed for former Fortius building at Burnaby Lake

Jul 30 2021, 2:05 pm

Healthcare officials in Burnaby, with the backing of the Fraser Health Authority, are pursuing the idea of adding a sizeable hub to the new Christine Sinclair Community Centre.

Proponents presented their idea to Burnaby City Council earlier this month, calling for a comprehensive community healthcare hub anchored by a primary care facility.

The community centre opened earlier this year within the former Fortius Sport and Health complex, which was acquired by the municipal government after the not-for-profit organization permanently shut down in late 2020 due to financial challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Dr. Baldev Sanghera, the medical director at Edmonds Urgent and Primary Care Centre, and the lead proponent of this new facility, says the primary care clinic would be a teaching and mentoring clinic for new doctors and nurses. In its first year of operations, this clinic would connect 5,400 patients to doctors for more optimal care and follow-ups.

Additional services other than the clinic could potentially include mental health counselling, pharmacy, social work, physiotherapy, and chronic disease prevention, as well as a subsidized dental clinic, medical imaging, youth wellness hub for youth-centric care, and an aboriginal friendship centre.

Fortius Sports & Health

Christine Sinclair Community Centre at the former Fortius Sport & Health complex at 3713 Kensington Avenue, Burnaby. (Fortius Sport & Health)

Christine Sinclair Community Centre at the former Fortius Sport & Health complex at 3713 Kensington Avenue, Burnaby. (Fortius Sport & Health)

This facility would need at least 10,500 sq ft for the primary care component and about 10,000 sq ft of additional space for the other service additions, bringing the size of the facility to up to 20,500 sq ft.

The former Foritus facility — built as a training and accommodations hub for elite athletes including Olympians — spans a total floor area of 140,000 sq ft over five levels, with the first two levels outfitted with fitness spaces and a double-size gymnasium, and the upper levels as a 50-room hotel for athletes. It also has a purpose-built space for medical imaging that was never used.

Since the city’s acquisition, the lower two floors have since been converted into a community centre, but the city has yet to establish plans for the hotel floor, which accounts for much of the building’s floor area.

“The availability of the Christine Sinclair Community Centre in Burnaby gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop and create a centre of excellence in wellness,” said Sanghera, adding that it is located in the geographical centre of the city and would complement the surrounding athletic facilities both on-site and in the area within the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.

“We could actually be providing immediately emergency services for any injuries that happen on-site,” continued Sanghera.

Fortius Sport & Health

Christine Sinclair Community Centre at the former Fortius Sport & Health complex at 3713 Kensington Avenue, Burnaby. (Fortius Sport & Health)

Christine Sinclair Community Centre at the former Fortius Sport & Health complex at 3713 Kensington Avenue, Burnaby. (Fortius Sport & Health)

There would be synergistic services to residences, creating a spoke-and-hub model that also serves other Burnaby neighbourhoods by providing extra services that are not available in the existing facilities in the city.

“This type of model is absolutely something we support. A lot of the services would be co-delivered by health authority staff, so it is definitely a model that is best for the community,” said Justin Lochang, Fraser Health co-chair and Fraser Health PCN director.

The proponents have submitted a formal proposal to the BC Ministry of Health.

The former Fortius complex, recently renamed after the Burnaby women’s soccer star, is on a 5.2-acre property. The city acquired the 2013-built property for $26.6 million.

Its conversion into a community centre allowed the municipal government to downsize the recreational space and parking components for the planned new replacement aquatic and recreational centre just across the street, effectively reducing project construction costs.

A space in the community centre has been used by Fraser Health as a COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic for several months, but the clinic is set to close on August 7, 2021.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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