British Columbia

$1.3-billion Royal Columbian Hospital modernization enters second phase

A massive expansion of the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., is entering its next phase, but not as originally intended.

The new facilities will now be maintained by Fraser Health instead of a contractor

The Royal Columbian Hospital has been plagued for years by overcrowding and aging infrastructure. (Google Maps)

The massive expansion of the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., is entering its next phase — but not as originally intended. 

The second phase of the $1.35-billion revitalization, which includes a new acute care tower and an expanded emergency department, will move forward as a design-build, rather than the previously approved public-private partnership, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on Saturday. 

Under the public-private partnership approved by the previous Liberal government, the maintenance of the facilities would have been delegated to a contractor, meaning part of the hospital's staff wouldn't be under Fraser Health, Dix said.

But under the design-build model, the contractor will only oversee the design and construction, while Fraser Health will fully own, operate and maintain the facilities.

No change in costs

Dix said the design-build has several advantages. 

"It allows us to implement significant changes on the site quickly. It allows us flexibility about the timing of maintenance decisions. ... And it keeps our team together at Royal Columbian Hospital," he told CBC News.

The province, Fraser Health and the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation are funding the three-phase project, with the province contributing $250 million.

The Fraser Health executive made the decision to switch to design-build, which was approved by the treasury board, the province said.

Dix said the switch in the second phase will not eat up any extra public dollars. The total cost of the project is expected to remain the same.

A contractor hadn't been selected under the previous model, Dix said. The tender for bids will go out Thursday and construction is expected to begin in 2020. 

New mental health centre

The Royal Columbian Hospital has been plagued for years by overcrowding, aging infrastructure and strained resources.

Its redevelopment is the largest government-funded capital health care project in B.C.'s history, the province said.

The new facilities in the second phase will include 229 new beds, more magnetic resonance imaging machines, a neonatal intensive care unit and a rooftop heliport.

Phase one of the revitalization, which began in 2016, involved the construction of a 36,500-square-metre Mental Health and Substance Use Well Centre to replace the 30-bed Sherbrooke Centre. 

The new centre will include a dedicated psychiatric unit for seniors and 45 beds for acute mental-health inpatient care.

It's slated to open in 2020.

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