Health Minister Mike de Jong made a visit to Burnaby on Friday afternoon to kick off the official first-step of the planning process to revamp Burnaby Hospital.
The first stage of the so-called "high-level master planning process" is expected to run from now to the autumn, with an expected cost of $230,000.
"I am happy to tell you today that the first step in reviving, renewing and modernizing the Burnaby campus begins today," said de Jong to a crowd of media, healthy authority and hospital staff, and members of the hospital foundation.
"It will involve you, all of you," he said, adding that the city of Burnaby, local community organizations, various health bodies, and other potential stakeholder groups would all be part of the process. "Please take seriously the invitation to be a part of this."
The city's two Liberal MLAs will play a key role in the planning process - Harry Bloy and Richard Lee will act as "special liaisons" between the minister's office and the planning committee.
Though de Jong referred to the current hospital site during his announcement and in a news release issued simultaneously, he told reporters afterwards that the first phase of the planning would be looking at any and all ideas around the future of the hospital in the city.
"I'm not ruling anything in or out," he said, when asked about the Mayor Derek Corrigan's recent suggestion that an alternate site on Willingdon, which is already owned by the province, might be a better location for a future medical campus.
"There's a strong history here (on this site)," he said. "But if people have those ideas, we'll look at them."
After the press conference, the NOW spoke to Coun. Paul McDonell, the only representative from city council at the Friday afternoon event.
McDonell was involved with the former Burnaby Health Board during the 1990s, prior to his time on city council, and in became chair of the Simon Fraser Health Board in 1998. He is also currently the city council's liaison to the health services committee, and Fraser Health Authority.
He said he'd like to have seen decisions made about the hospital's future several years ago, but it's "better late than never."
"We can't keep putting band-aids on problems. (The hospital) is 60 years old," he said. "We need to move ahead and figure out what this city is going to need for the future and get that happening."
The age of the hospital was one of the key reasons given for the ongoing C. difficile outbreaks at the hospital. The layout and number of sinks in the aging facility has made it more challenging to halt infections among patients sharing a ward.
"An outbreak can happen anywhere, but in an older building it's a lot harder to get it under control," McDonell said.
He also told the NOW that this stage in the process is the time to "think outside the box" and consider as many options as possible.
When asked if he was concerned about conflict between the NDP-aligned city council and the Liberal government during the process, his answer was an emphatic no.
"There's a time and place for politics and there's a time and place for common ground - the most important thing is that we get the hospital that we need for this community," he said.
"I'm glad to see this happening today - let's get on with it," he said.
For more, see Hospital housekeeping audits highlight issues.
© Copyright 2013