Paul Liberatore

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St. Paul's Hospital on the move to False Creek

A massive footprint and a vacant plot of land near Main Street and Terminal Avenue will make St. Paul’s Hospital the envy of Canada and chart a course for the future design of health care delivery, board chairs for Providence and Vancouver Coastal told The Vancouver Sun Monday.

Unlike most hospital redevelopments, which involve renovation or expansion on limited land mass, the new St. Paul’s will move to the False Creek flats where there is space enough to build a unique “campus of care” offering a variety of services on one site.

The hospital itself will be larger and the campus will provide residential care for the frail elderly, a 24-7 integrated care centre staffed by family doctors to divert patients away from emergency departments, mental health and addiction services and research facilities, said Geoff Plant, chair of the Providence Health Care board and Kip Woodward, chair of Vancouver Coastal Health board.

West End residents will lose a hospital in their own backyard, and possibly the 1912 iconic brick building fronting Burrard Street; however, Plant said, “It’s my view that health care has to trump nostalgia all the time,” later adding that St. Paul’s is beyond help since it’s a “pile of bricks that could fall down in an earthquake.”

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, said the plan is like his worst dream. “In earlier drafts, there was going to be an emergency room of some sort on the St. Paul’s location. Now they are talking about full-scale selling of all the lands for condominiums or some sort of other development.”

Chandra Herbert said the new hospital will be too far from the downtown core in an event causing mass injuries.

“I’m not against health care investment elsewhere, I just think we need emergency services in downtown Vancouver.”

Woodward responded to Herbert’s complaints, saying: “There are rural communities where people would love to be within five hours of a hospital. The new hospital is only three kilometres away (from the current site), three to five minutes farther away.”

Only six per cent of those who use hospitals live within three kilometres of such medical facilities, noted Dianne Doyle, CEO of Providence (which operates St. Paul’s) and that proportion happens to be Vancouver’s West End residents. “So they are fortunate from that point of view,” she said, noting that ambulance drivers have told her they will find it far easier to get to the new site near Main and Terminal.

Dr. Julio Montaner, the internally renowned director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s, said he knows downtown residents are “emotionally attached” to the hospital and will not want to see it move anywhere, but “we are moving a few blocks away, it’s not like we’re moving to another continent.”

And with the construction not expected to be completed for at least seven years, Montaner said he expects as he ages, he’ll one day be a patient in the hospital.

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