COLUMN: New Surrey hospital would be major step forward

Any new hospital will take years of planning and construction, writes columnist Frank Bucholtz.

Surrey will almost certainly be getting a much-needed new hospital, and it is likely to be located somewhere close to Highway 10.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said concept planning is underway, and he expects to make some sort of announcement before the end of this year. This announcement is long overdue.

“It’s a very high priority for me,” Dix said recently, of a new hospital in Surrey. “The key issue in Surrey is obviously the location of the hospital and when they say there hasn’t been information, obviously when you’re looking at locations, until you have established that and effectively purchased it or have the right to the location, you obviously can’t talk about it too much and so we can’t talk about that except to say that I expect an announcement… certainly this calendar year.”

Dix also said that it will be located in an area that comes with “geographic balance,” meaning not particularly close to Surrey Memorial, Peace Arch or Langley Memorial hospitals. This makes abundant sense, as hospitals need to be as close to people’s homes as possible. Minutes are often precious.

His remarks seem to point to a hospital somewhere near Highway 10, likely in the western half of Surrey and south of Newton, but possibly as far east as Cloverdale. A site which had been earmarked for a new hospital, at 5750 Panorama Dr., was sold off under the former BC Liberal government and is now being developed for residential use. It would have fit the “geographic balance” criterion perfectly.

At one time, Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation owned a large property on Highway 10 at 180 Street – property bequeathed to it by the Bourassa family. It is possible that site is still available. Trees and other vegetation are being cleared from the property, vacant for almost three decades, right now.

Another possible site in Cloverdale is on property adjacent to the Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus. Formerly the Shannon farm, the land was owned for decades by BC Hydro and is still under provincial control.

A city as large as Surrey, with enormous growth potential, needs at least one more hospital. The urgent-care centres now being established by the NDP government (one has opened in Surrey near SMH) help fill the gap somewhat, as they take pressure off the emergency rooms. The Jim Pattison Outpatient Centre on the former Green Timbers nursery property has also been a good step in the right direction. However, a full-service hospital with enough room for expansion in the future is needed as well.

Despite many expansions at Surrey Memorial, it remains significantly overcrowded. Waits in the emergency room are often lengthy. Langley Memorial, which serves many in the eastern portion of Surrey, is preparing to expand its very overcrowded emergency room. Peace Arch Hospital is getting busier each year as South Surrey grows.

All three of those hospitals have room for expansion, and it is a certainty that they will be expanded in the future. Surrey will one day be the biggest city in the province.

A hospital to serve the growing population of this city would be a major step forward in helping to correct some of the infrastructure deficit that has existed here for decades. The NDP promised to get to work on this project in the 2017 election campaign, and it sounds like Dix is taking the issue seriously. It’s important to also note that any new hospital will take years of planning and construction.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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