MAYOR”S REPORT By LADYSMITH MAYOR ROB HUTCHINS
Setting the stage to build a new hospital in Cowchan
The citizens of Ladysmith and Chemainus have a long history of helping to ensure hospital services are provided close to home. Today, all the residents of the Cowichan Valley Regional District are being called upon to help build a new community hospital to serve our residents. To date, as a region, we have taken two big steps towards realizing this goal; we have started saving money and we are now actively seeking a new hospital site.
The Cowichan District Hospital (CDH), which opened in 1967, was built at a time when our region had a population of approximately 35,000; today we are over 82,000 strong. Although over the years considerable money has been invested in additions and renovations, the CDH is chronically operating over capacity, fire safety features in some sections of the hospital are inadequate, the operating rooms do not meet modern standards, and most of the building is seismically suspect. Our hospital is overdue for replacement.
Over the decades, hospital medical services have become increasingly more specialized, medical technology has become more sophisticated and expensive, and our expectations to have access to the best of care possible has become insatiable. The old style, all service, small town general hospital is neither sustainable nor suitable today.
About a decade ago, the Provincial health authorities began the reorganization of hospital services. Gone were the much loved and cherished small town hospitals of Ladysmith and Chemainus. Today, depending on the medical services required, we are served by four levels of hospital facilities, each providing an increasing level of care: community hospital – Cowichan District; regional hospital – Nanaimo; tertiary hospital – Jubilee and Victoria General; and quaternary hospital – St. Paul’s and Vancouver General.
As property tax payers, we are responsible to help pay for the capital costs of health services within our region. The replacement of the CDH, our community hospital, is expensive. Based on the present projected replacement costs of the Campbell River and Courtney/Comox community hospitals, it is anticipated to cost approximately $350,000,000 to build a new CDH. Such capital costs are shared 40% by the local taxpayer and 60% by the Provincial government.
So, how do we fund our $140,000,000 share? It is the largest single capital expenditure our regional district has ever participated in. In anticipation of this looming expenditure the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District (CVRHD) began raising funds in 2010 to help reduce future borrowing costs and to send a message to the Province that we are ready for a new hospital.
The plan? Raise the hospital tax levy by $20 a year for seven years. 2010 – $20, 2011 – $40, 2012 – $60 —-2016 – $140. Collectively, each $20 increment raises $1 million. In 2013, the average home paid $80 and collectively we raised $4 million towards our new community hospital. Today, we have banked over $10.5 million and by 2016 we will have raised over $30 million, with interest. The Cowichan District Hospital Foundation has also raised and saved over $1.4 million towards our share of the costs of a new hospital.
Saving money is one step, finding a new site is another. The present hospital site is too small to accommodate the construction of a new hospital while attempting to maintain hospital functions in the present facility.
In collaboration with Island Health, the CVRHD has begun the process of locating a new site. Criteria have been developed, a consultant has been engaged and the process of creating a list of potential parcels has commenced.
Although the Province has not yet agreed to fund their portion of a new hospital, it was decided it would be prudent to acquire the site now as valuable parcels are being consumed for other development. Also, we are hoping to send an even stronger message to the Province that the Cowichan Region is ready for a new community hospital. rhutchins [at] ladysmith [dot] ca