New psych ward 'a priority,' says B.C. health minister
B.C.'s health minister says he is committed to finding the $42 million needed to replace the aging psychiatric facility at Vancouver General Hospital.
The 70-year-old building is overcrowded and Lorna Howes — the director of mental health services for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which runs the hospital — told CBC News it is "falling apart" and renovations are no longer viable.
"It's required. It's a priority," Health Minister Mike de Jong told CBC News Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko in an interview.
"Happily donors, significant donors, have stepped forward ... now our challenge on behalf of the tax payers is to find a responsible way to identify the public dollars, significant dollars, we'll need."
The Joe Segal family has offered to put up $12 million towards a new facility, and de Jong said the government does not want to lose that generous offer.
"We want to move ahead and we certainly want to take advantage of the generosity of the Segal family and the foundation's commitment to raise the money," he said.
"There is a desire clearly to move ahead with the replacement of a facility that is long past its best before date."
But de Jong said the provincial government still needs to come up with its share of the funding.
"There's no shortage of desire or passion to move ahead and replace a building that has asbestos is in it, that ... is antiquated beyond repair. But the bill is real and taxpayers are obliged to foot that bill," de Jong said.
The news comes after CBC News reported on widespread deficiencies at the ward, including drug dealing and overcrowding.
"[CBC's] stories demonstrate graphically that there's more work to be done but there has been progress made and agencies like Vancouver Coastal Health have taken on the challenge and taken it very seriously," said de Jong.