Public forum this Saturday will explore options for potential new Cowichan hospital

The Cowichan Communities Health Network hosts a forum Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre.

At the end of October, the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District (CVRHD) took a step forward in its planning process for a potential new hospital by issuing a Request for Proposals seeking real estate expertise to identify properties that would fit into long-term plans for the eventual replacement of Cowichan District Hospital (CDH). The request for submissions ended Nov. 22, and local residents will be able to share feedback about properties they think could be a good fit during a public forum this weekend.

Acquiring a suitable site for a new hospital is just one step in a process that remains in the very early stages, according to a press release from the CVRHD.

A new hospital for the Cowichan Valley would require regional and provincial government approval, and at this time, no approvals or funding are in place.

“Recognizing the need to replace the Cowichan District Hospital, the CVRHD approached Island Health seeking its support to conduct a land search,” said Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins,  who is chair of the CVRHD. “The CVRHD wants to do its part to ensure that the right piece of property is available should a hospital project be approved in the future.”

The acquisition of land does not guarantee provincial funding and approval for a new hospital. Should the long-term strategy for a new hospital eventually be approved and funded, the land acquired by the CVRHD would be part of its 40-per-cent contribution to the cost of a new hospital.

Members of the public will be invited to provide feedback on the site selection criteria that will be used in determining a location for a potential new hospital through a public process hosted by the Cowichan Communities Health Network.

An Expression of Interest process will take place later this year inviting landowners to submit properties to be considered as potential sites for a potential future new hospital.

The CHD, built in the 1960s, is not up to today’s standards in many cases, and it is now at the top of Island Health’s list for capital replacement, according to Hutchins.

“It’s a hospital that needs to be replaced,” he said. “We’ve done a series of upgrades over the years, and now we need to replace it.”

Constructing a new hospital would be the single largest expenditure the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) will have ever done as a region, as the project is expected to cost in excess of $300 million, and the CVRHD is responsible for 40 per cent of that, or approximately $120 million.

“We have endeavoured to make sure we are ready if and when the Ministry of Health says ‘we have funding to help you build a new hospital,’” said Hutchins. “Four years ago, we began saving money as a regional district for a new hospital.”

The CVRHD has saved roughly $10.5 million toward the new hospital, while the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation has already put aside $1.3 million, he explained.

The next step, according to Hutchins, is to make sure the CVRHD is ready and has a site if and when the funding and approvals come forward, and looking for land now means protecting a suitable site that meets the criteria for building a hospital from development.

“We haven’t got a new hospital yet; this is just one more step toward a new hospital that we desperately need,” emphasized Hutchins.

Residents can share their ideas about what would make a suitable site during a forum on the Cowichan District Hospital site acquisition this Saturday (Nov. 30) from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre. The forum will include a presentation about the history of CDH, as well as panel presentations about what is a community hospital, day-to-day operations, master site planning, and a Q&A session.

For more information, contact Cindy Lise at 250-709-5062 or cindylisecchn@shaw.ca.

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