West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

West Coast General Hospital is finally getting its emergency department expansion.

British Columbia’s health minister Adrian Dix and Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne announced on Friday, Jan. 15 a $6.25-million expansion for Port Alberni’s hospital.

“The current West Coast General Hospital has served the people of the Alberni-Clayoquot region well since 2001. However, upgrades are needed so the hospital can continue this high level of care for people for decades to come,” Dix said.

The expansion is designed to enhance patient care in a number of ways, he added.

The redevelopment will include a 244 square-metre (2,626 square-foot) expansion, as well as improvements to the existing emergency department space. The project will add three new patient exam beds, extra space for patients awaiting tests and results, a private, safe seclusion room for patients in need of emergency mental health care, improvements to the triage and admitting area, and two separate entrances for ambulances and the general public.

Plans for an expansion in the emergency department were first put on hold in 2015, then again in 2018 despite a new electronic triage system being implemented the previous year.

Design work for a new ER department was completed in 2017. Dix said a request for proposal for a construction manager went out on Jan. 14, and construction will begin in March 2021. The expansion is expected to be finished by summer 2022.

READ: PROGRESS 2018: West Coast General Hospital brings technology to ER

Dix acknowledged that six years is a long time to wait for a hospital expansion. “You’re right, like many things it’s taken too long, but we’re going. Part of that was advocacy from (former MLA) Scott Fraser and Josie Osborne before this, and really the whole community.”

West Coast General was built in the late 1990s and opened in 2001. Its emergency department saw 25,000 visits last year from all over the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

Osborne, who served as chair of the ACRD’s hospital board when she was mayor of Tofino, said the ER expansion has been a priority. “Voices have been heard and investments have been made,” she said. “Everybody understands that WCGH is a key facility in the region. Knowing when you live in Ahousaht, Hot Springs Cove or Bamfield…the care you’re going to receive at WCGH is important.”

The expansion will mean streamlined services and enhanced patient care, said Pam Rardon, site director for WCGH. “This is exciting news. The staff here are very excited because it’s going to mean better care for patients in the end,” Rardon said.

The private room for people in mental health crises “was a must when we began discussions long ago,” she added. “Having some space—some private space—is really important.”

Rardon said part of the expansion will be physically moving walls, and part will be streamlining what is already in place. For example, the waiting room is difficult to see from the nursing station, and there isn’t a lot of room for families to wait together if necessary—especially for those that must travel a long distance to get to the hospital.

READ: New ER put on hold

Cost for the expansion will be shared between the province ($2.55 million), West Coast General Hospital Foundation ($2 million) and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District ($1.7 million).

“The emergency department is a busy place, and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District is very pleased to support this renovation,” said chairperson John McNabb. “We know it will greatly benefit patients in the years to come.”

Chris Francey, business director for the WCGH Foundation, said $2 million is a significant pledge for the foundation, but necessary. “We believe it is the right thing to do for all of the families who will need the services of this hospital in the future,” he said.

Rardon credited the partnership between the hospital district and the foundation as vital to this project moving forward.

“We want people locally to know they can support this (expansion) by supporting the foundation. It’s a big amount of money to be raised and we want to help them be able to meet that goal.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

HospitalsPORT ALBERNI

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

An ambulance drives up to the emergency department on West Coast General Hospital on Jan. 15, 2021 with a patient. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

An ambulance drives up to the emergency department on West Coast General Hospital on Jan. 15, 2021 with a patient. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Nursing staff at West Coast General Hospital celebrate the announcement of a $6.25-million expansion of the emergency department that will start in March 2021. (File photo)

Nursing staff at West Coast General Hospital celebrate the announcement of a $6.25-million expansion of the emergency department that will start in March 2021. (File photo)

Just Posted

Camosun Cares hampers will be delivered weekly to students for a period of nine weeks. (Photo courtesy of Camosun College)
Weekly care hampers offered to Camosun College students in need

The Camosun Cares hamper delivers fresh produce, prepared meals, hygiene products and even recipes

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

Millstream Village is welcoming a new Marshalls location March 9. (Photo courtesy GWL Realty Advisors)
New Marshalls store in Langford brings boost to women in need

Retailer will hold opening ceremony in Millstream Village March 9

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

FILE  - In this Friday, Jan 1, 2021 file photo, a lorry driver's documents are scanned on a phone as he passes a checkpoint for the train through the Eurotunnel link with Europe in Folkestone, England. One month after Britain made a New Year split from the European Union's economic embrace, businesses that once traded freely are getting used to frustrating checks, delays and red tape. Meat exporters say shipments have rotted in trucks awaiting European health checks. Scottish fishermen have protested at Parliament over the catch they can no longer sell to the continent because of byzantine new paperwork. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)
FINLAYSON: Government should focus on strengthening B.C.’s leading export industries

To revive the economy, this piece in the strategy is integral, writes Jock Finlayson

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Most Read