A New Democrat MLA claims the B.C. government is stalling on its promise to rebuild the rapidly deteriorating St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End, said the B.C. Liberals have promised his constituents a renewed St. Paul's Hospital over the past three provincial elections, but construction has yet to begin.
"It all just seems to be stalling," Chandra Herbert told The Province. "It is frustrating, and clearly we need a new hospital." Founded in 1894, St. Paul's Hospital, parts of which are more than a century old, is in dire need of modernization.
The facility's operator, Providence Health Care, has been waiting for years for government endorsement of a concept plan outlining demolition of the hospital's old Comox building and construction of a new 228,000-square-foot tower. Psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Wiseman, medical director of the hospital's Complex Pain Centre, said the buildings have a very "Third-World feel to it."
"The buildings here, they do not command respect, and they're not given any," he said. "There's this sense that it's OK for the floors to be dirty, it's OK for people to be smoking, it's OK for things to be broken."
Wiseman said the wait has been so drawn out that hospital staff are skeptical construction will ever begin.
"Quite frankly, until shovels go into the ground, we're not going to believe it," he said.
Bonnie Maples, chief project officer for the hospital, sympathized with the sense of skepticism, but said there is a "definite feeling of enthusiasm" in the hospital that "things are really aligning." Health Minister Terry Lake was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but a ministry spokesman said the province remains "firmly committed" to the hospital redevelopment.
Ryan Jabs wrote in an email that the ministry "must get the concept plan right" as the facility would continue to serve the public while under construction.
But Chandra Herbert said continuing to postpone the hospital's rebuilding is putting lives at risk. According to the government's own safety evaluations, a 2003-04 facility index found the hospital's Burrard, Comox and MacDonald buildings at "extreme" risk in the event of an earthquake.
"Every day that goes by, the probability of an earthquake increases," said Chandra Herbert.