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Costs and timeline unclear on major Surrey hospital expansion


After years of lobbying from community groups, health-care workers, and local politicians, B.C.’s fastest-growing community will get a dramatic expansion, the premier announced Monday.

Flanked by local MLAs, Fraser Health Authority brass and the health minister, David Eby told Surrey residents he was taking the first step in expanding Surrey Memorial Hospital with a second tower offering acute care services focussed on children, obstetric and specialty medical care.

“There has been concern about past decisions of government where people in Surrey did not get the same level of per capita funding that other cities saw,” said Eby, referencing the Board of Trade and mayor’s statements on the issue. “(Now) we are addressing a long-standing injustice that's been faced south of the Fraser River.”

When CTV News asked how the province planned to pay for the expansion when there hadn’t been any mention of such a massive expenditure in last month’s budget, which outlines capital spending for three years, Eby explained that the business plan phase would now begin with consultations from stakeholders and the public. That process is expected to take 15 to 18 months.

Sources say the hospital heavily relies on overtime hours to maintain services, which is unsustainable, but Eby insisted they have short and long-term strategies to staff the new tower and that they are ”leaving no stone unturned to find the workers.”

Healthcare workers prepare to ramp up advocacy

Staff at the hospital were pleased that the much-anticipated expansion of the hospital was formally announced and endorsed by the provincial government.

“This is a testament to the importance of physician advocacy and goals we can accomplish when health-care providers, health authorities and our government share a common mission,” wrote Dr. Amoljeet Lail in an email statement on behalf of the hospital’s Medical Staff Association.

Dr. Randeep Gill, a longtime advocate of increased health-care services for Surrey, was at the announcement and said while he was “thrilled” with the commitment, his priorities for the new tower are slightly different than the health minister’s. 

“A level 2 trauma center is what this city needs and that is well defined and that's what we will be pushing for,” he said. “Not only would that help the residents of Surrey, it’d help the entire region.”

Surrey Memorial doesn’t have neurological or advanced cardiac services, meaning anyone with a serious injury could drive right past SMH across the river to Royal Columbian Hospital, which is the closest Level 1 trauma centre and the only one in Fraser Health. 

Minister floats billion-dollar price tag

CTV News asked what kind of ballpark price tag the province is looking at for the expansion, which the health minister side-stepped, insisting they “have money approved in the 10-year capital plan,” a plan kept closely confidential by the provincial government.

The planning phase of the expansion is covered within the ministry of health’s operating budget, then the project has to go to a public bidding process for drawings and construction, so it could be two years before figures start appearing in the three-year budget projections the province publishes each spring.

After a third reporter asked about a potential cost, Adrian Dix finally relented and said, “this kind of project you're talking about not millions, but billions.”

At current construction costs, Dix said, similar projects are costing about $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion, “but we want to plan it out in detail” before discussing numbers, likely because a second stand-alone hospital in the Cloverdale area of Surrey is already seeing ballooning costs and delays.

In the meantime, SMH’s acting medical director admonished the public to be patient with expansion plans.

“They will take time,” said Dr. Maretta Van Den Berg. “This means that we will still have long waits in our emergency department and we still will have hallways beds for a while.” Top Stories

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