Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)

Overdue Vernon hospital expansion to remedy mental health bed shortages

Interior Health seeking bids for concept plan for mental health and substance use facility

  • Feb. 10, 2021 12:00 a.m.

A major expansion of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital (VJH) is in the works.

Interior Health has released a request for proposals for a concept plan towards building a mental health and substance use facility on the existing VJH campus. The facility would focus on inpatient treatment and assessment, and fill the need for 29 inpatient psychiatric beds that were identified in a 2016 report.

The hospital was constructed in 1947, with the Centennial Wing added in 1968, the Alexander Wing Annex in 1972 and the South tower in 1983. The seven-storey Polson Tower was added to the site in 2011 as a diagnostic and treatment facility complete with two floors of inpatient units.

The Alexander Wing Annex was constructed as a timber-framed building “that is late in its normally expected operational life,” according to the public tender.

According to the documents, the existing annex has issues with meeting the needs of psychiatric patients. Currently operating between 134 and 196 per cent overcapacity, an overflow unit at VJH takes up other inpatient beds until mental health or substance use beds are available.

“The current physical layout is inadequate. Issues include staff and patient safety, lines of sight, and lack of single-person rooms,” reads the project overview document. “The current ‘doughnut’ circulation layout creates blind corners and exposes vulnerable patients to possible harm from others.”

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Another problem relates to the distance between physicians, who are mostly in Polson Tower, and psychiatric patients, making it “difficult to obtain prompt response on medical issues.”

“The Polson tower expansion increased the response time for the Code White team members to get to unit from the new tower,” the document states.

Almost 50 years after the Alexander Wing Annex was built, the ward has “become functionally obsolete and does not support current best practice delivery models and professional practice standards for patient care. The public tender document cites the growing needs of the general and Indigenous populations as a reason for needing a new facility.

Planning for the project began several years ago, and Interior Health received approval to go ahead with developing a concept plan in the spring of 2020.

The proposed new standalone building would relocate mental health and substance use patients who currently have insufficient space at the hospital. The main component is an inpatient psychiatry and overflow bed unit. A complimentary unit for community programs could include, but is not limited to:

  • Adult short-term assessment and treatment services
  • Eating disorders
  • Mental health and substance use (MHSU) emergency services/assertive response team
  • Intake and Program Response
  • Seniors mental health
  • Addictions/substance use counselling
  • Adult community support services
  • Community mental health outreach/rehab workers
  • Psychiatry consultations
  • MHSU support staff

Interior Health is looking for proposals that include a plan for accommodating parking stalls. Currently, there are 697 stalls at VJH.

A 2016 planning design report by Stantec Architecture will need to be reviewed by potential bidders, according to the tender documents. Other requirements include a project schedule, a schematic design option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a construction phasing plan.

Interior Health is accepting proposals until March 2. A consultant team will be chosen sometime in March, user group meetings will take place from March to June and the schematic design is to be completed by August 2021.

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Brendan Shykora

Reporter, Vernon Morning Star

Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com

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