$80-million expansion for Kamloops hospital
Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital is set to get better parking and new clinic space as part of an estimated $80-million redevelopment package.
Premier Christy Clark, in the city on Wednesday, July 11, to announce the funding, said the first chunk of cash sets the stage for another $320 million in renovations at a later date, including a surgical and inpatient tower.
“This is just the beginning,” she said, adding the first phase will get “fundamentals” — designing, business planning and the like — for the rest of the upgrade worked out.
In the first phase of the project, the hospital will get clinic space for its cardiology, neurology, renal and respiratory programs, more teaching space for UBC medical programs and a new parkade at its Columbia Street entrance that will also add a level access point to the hospital for people with mobility issues.
The RIH master plan, completed last year, suggested the new parkade could add about 300 more stalls to the hospital’s parking stock.
“It doesn’t seem like a big thing until you have a loved one that’s in the hospital,” said Clark, “and the stress of not being able to find a place to park when you’re already feeling pretty stressed about someone you love going through an incredibly tough time inside the building is really difficult.”
However, a representative from the B.C. Nurses’ Union said she is disappointed to see the hospital’s parking issues take precedence over what she said are critical staffing and space shortages.
“Parking’s an issue, but this is number one,” said Tracey Quewezance, the BCNU steward for RIH, pointing to signs she and several other union reps held through Clark’s announcement.
The signs read “safe staffing = safe patient case.”
Quewezance said a lack of capacity has become a serious problem at RIH. As the premier made her announcement, the hospital was already about 25 patients over its capacity, Quewezance said.
For her, the announcement was bittersweet.
“There were other pieces they could have done before building that parkade,” she said.
“I am disappointed we’re not going ahead with building the tower that would be addressing the capacity issue, the staffing issue. Baby steps, I guess.”
Clark said the tower needs to come after the first phase, noting new clinic space will address some of the union’s space concerns.
“The surgical tower and that big increase in clinical space that comes from that can only happen once this is underway,” Clark said. “We don’t want that to remain a fantasy . . . this is the first step and we can’t get to the second step without this.”
Clark said the rest of the money for the renovation is “notionally” set aside, but the rest of the funding is probably a few years down the road.
It was a statement echoed by Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger, who Clark praised as a “tenacious, relentless” campaigner for RIH.
“The other $320 million not being committed is on the books,” he said.
“It’s not some never-neverland thing.”
It’s not yet clear when construction will begin at the hospital. Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said the business plan for the redevelopment is still being worked out, noting there will need to be some negotiation with the city to make required upgrades along Columbia Street.
Ideally, Lake said, construction will begin in the back half of 2013.