Fifty years and bigger and better than ever.
Staff, administrators and volunteers helped Nanaimo Regional General Hospital celebrate its golden anniversary Friday just outside the main entrance of the facility.
Built in 1963 – construction began in 1960 at a cost of $3.5 million – the hospital has seen several upgrades and expansions, the most recent being the $36.9-million emergency wing completed last October.
“This anniversary is a significant milestone and an opportunity to say thank you to past and present staff, physicians, volunteers, donors, government and community partners,” said Don Hubbard, Vancouver Island Health Authority board chairman.
Special note was given to the 240-member hospital auxiliary, which has operated since 1900 and supported health care in Nanaimo through efforts that include everything from sewing hospital linens to raising money through craft sales, garden parties and the annual Auxiliary Ball.
“It’s a very dedicated group of volunteers,” said Lynda Avis, president of the auxiliary. “In the last eight years alone we’ve almost raised $3 million. That’s a lot of sewing.”
The Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation was also acknowledged. It has seen more than 25,000 donors contribute almost $40 million to the hospital and other central Island care facilities over the past 35 years.
Joe Stanhope, chairman of the Regional District of Nanaimo, said the hospital has served people from Bowser to Cedar well.
“The investments and in this hospital have allowed it to evolve and meet the needs of our growing communities. It is a key part of our community, not just as a health care facility, but as an economic driver as well,” said Stanhope, noting that the best equipment and facilities attract the best health care providers. “We don’t always want to go to the hospital, but when we do the quality of care is outstanding.”
NRGH officially opened its doors on Jan. 6, 1963. Patients were relocated from the former hospital sites at Machleary and Franklyn streets in a transfer operation that included help from Civil Defence Authority and other community organizations.
The first major expansion was in 1974, when the rehabilitation wing opened. In 1997, the ambulatory care wing opened, in 2005 the $23-million surgical suite was opened, and in 2007 the $16.5-million perinatal/neonatal intensive care unit opened to enhance maternity services for the 1,000 babies born at the hospital every year.
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said that while the recently opened Oceanside Health Centre in Parksville will take some of the burden off NRGH, the hospital will continue fill a vital role in the community.
“I’m proud of the partnership between the province, Nanaimo Regional Hospital District and Vancouver Island Health Authority that continues to support major improvements at NRGH,” she said.
The first hospital service in Nanaimo was an improvised facility on Chapel Street that were essentially two miner’s cabins measuring 15 by 40 feet in size. A second was later built at the corner of Prideaux and Fitzwilliam streets.