Peace Arch Hospital, with the oversight of Fraser Health, is moving forward with plans – among them a new $20-million emergency department scheduled to be complete by early-2019 – to keep pace with the needs of a rapidly growing and evolving community. In this concluding installment of Peace Arch News’ five-part series, Hospital Foundation chair Art Reitmayer discusses how the vision of community members continues to contribute to PAH as it enters a new era.
“You strive for excellence – not perfection,” says Art Reitmayer, chair of the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation.
It’s a pragmatism born of experience.
Now in his sixth year as a member of the volunteer board and second as chair, Reitmayer draws on skills honed in corporate board rooms – and entrepreneurial expertise in opening and growing new markets – to help keep the hospital responsive to ever-evolving needs for decades ahead.
That includes not only the current ER expansion, but also the project after that – a new 200-bed residential care facility that will provide 73 beds for geriatric mental health and substance abuse patients alone, as well as a self-contained 15-bed hospice residence.
That facility will replace the current residential-care beds in the Weatherby Pavilion – and the hospital’s existing hospice – freeing space and resources to provide more acute care to new patients. (Non-clinical services will move into Weatherby.)
“The ER and the residential-care facility are inextricably linked,” Reitmayer says, noting that the board has been “hard at work” on the followup project since 2012.
“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t just building a bigger, nicer place to wait. By taking care of individuals who are better taken care of in sub-acute care, we can provide more acute care. It’s all really one big project that represents over $65 million in investment.”
Reitmayer is well aware that, from its beginnings in the 1950s, the White Rock hospital has relied on the far-sightedness of community leaders to prepare it for every stage of its development. And he’s quick to say he’s part of a team – and a tradition – at the hospital, which derives inspiration from the dedicated, hard-working staff.
“The foundation has always been blessed with a group of board members who are committed to and attuned to the needs in the community. And those are never going to stop changing. It’s a difficult market. It’s easy to get critical of health care. We’re trying to do the best we can with changing technology and working with the (Fraser) Health Authority.”
Fortunately, he says, the foundation has a good relationship and a constant dialogue with the authority.
“There are times when we are not totally in alignment with what we see as the needs, but they are willing to work with us on that.”
Creative problem-solving comes naturally to Reitmayer – his talents found outlet, for much of his career, in the fast-paced world of television.
A Price Waterhouse-trained chartered accountant, Reitmayer’s career took an unanticipated turn into media when he took on a management role at independent Vancouver station CKVU. That led, in turn to stints as president of a CBC affiliate in Alberta, as president and CEO of BCTV and CHEK TV, and later as president and CEO of the 10-station broadcasting group WIC Television.
He was one of the founders of Channel M in 2002 and remained president and CEO until it was sold to Rogers in 2008.
Former president and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, he has latterly specialized as an independent business consultant in areas of strategic planning, and also project management services for building and real-estate projects.
He particularly appreciates, he says, how the foresight of past boards was instrumental in assembling the property, adjacent to the existing hospital, that will be the site of the new residential care facility as well as accommodating the ER expansion.
“It’s the type of people the foundation has been able to attract to the board, who looked at what was needed down the road. Some of the properties that were acquired have grown three to four times in value since the hospital purchased them. If you had to buy them today, it probably wouldn’t happen.”
Reitmayer and his wife, Marj, are longtime Peninsula residents – they have two grown children and two grandchildren – with an ongoing commitment to the community.
“All of the people on the board live here,” he says. “You have to be plugged in to the community.”
Planning for the hospital is an ongoing puzzle with a lot of “bits and pieces,” Reitmayer says, noting the board is trying to anticipate not just the needs of next year, but 15 years hence, when another major expansion will likely be necessary.
“We are the ones who are supposedly providing some of the vision. I think we do that and do it well, but the hospital is getting older and things like improvements to surgical suites and imaging still need to be addressed,” he says.
“There’s a lot to get done in 15 years – but it will happen… There’s a lot of passion about what we do – we’ve got some incredible people with great skills who come in and just light it up.”