It will cost “north of $100 million” to redevelop the 55-year-old-Cariboo Memorial Hospital, said health minister Adrian Dix Friday in Williams Lake where he announced the hospital upgrade project is moving to the business plan stage.
“This hospital is important and is going to be a central part of life here for many years to come so we need to bring it up to the 21st century,” Dix told reporters, noting it is hoped the business plan will be completed in 2018 and by 2019 the project will go to tender.
A master site plan for the hospital was completed in 2011, a concept plan was submitted in 2015, and Dix said it was under revision when he became minister.
The plan arrived on his desk in early November 2017, and is the first one to be approved under his mandate.
“My task as minister is to move as quickly as possible and meet every deadline that we set for ourselves.”
As she welcomed guests to traditional Secwepemc territory, Williams Lake Indian Band elder Virginia Gilbert thanked the Creator for bringing everyone safely to the announcement.
“I pray that we can put our minds together for our future generations and I pray for the ones that are still out there suffering from cancer and diabetes,” she said.
Interior Health Board director Tammy Tugnum, praised the work of staff at the hospital and the many volunteer organizations who fundraise “diligently” for hospital equipment.
“We will hold Minister Dix to his plan,” Tugnum said. “We are willing to do our part as non-profits and community groups to pitch in and help out.”
Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District Chair Bob Simpson said it “was kind of cheeky” of him as the newly-elected board chair to get to announce a major project that many people have been working on.
“I have to give credit to Margo Wagner and John Massier, previous chairs, that really tried to advance this project,” Simpson said. “Margo was very deliberate when she met with any minister telling them ‘you do know we have money in the bank with our 40 per cent share from our local taxpayers — advance the project.'”
By redeveloping the hospital, the provincial government is expressing confidence in the resiliency and vibrancy of the region, Simpson added.
“We are dealing with the post-wildfire, we’re dealing with mountain pine beetle and now Douglas-fir beetle and all of those assaults on our traditional forest sector,” Simpson said. “Resilient communities need core infrastructure.”
Closing out the speeches Dr. Glenn Fedor joked about looking out his window this morning and if he saw his shadow it was going to be another six long winters before he saw any changes.
“Luckily I didn’t see my shadow,” Fedor said.
In the last year five new family doctors and one emergency room doctor have been recruited to the community and a new gynecological/obstetrician is on the way, Fedor confirmed, noting they are also hoping to recruit a nurse practitioner.
“My vision for Williams Lake is that we will be a medical hub, serving the needs of the Cariboo-Chilcotin with a vast array of services. No longer will we always be needing to travel long distances to get the medical help we need.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said the news is great for the community and anticipated for a long time.
“When we were at UBCM in September we indicated that we knew this project was coming and this government and the previous government supported it and we told them the sooner the better,” Cobb said.
Read More: New hospital a go for Williams Lake, says B.C. Health Minister