Local officials hope plans to replace the aging Cowichan District Hospital will be expedited. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Hospital’s quake vulnerability highlights need for new hospital

We can only hope it doesn't take an earthquake to shake loose the financial commitment.

It adds some urgency to the longstanding need for a new hospital for the Cowichan Valley when we discover that parts of the existing building might not stand up that well during an earthquake.

We think it makes total sense not to invest millions in seismic upgrades in the old structure at this point, with a new hospital clearly the direction we’re headed in.

It would be a big waste of taxpayer dollars, as it’s very unclear what will happen to the old hospital after it’s decommissioned.

An earthquake ready building that’s just going to be torn down doesn’t make much sense.

But the fact remains that the building does not meet today’s earthquake standards, yet we can surmise that a hospital will be one of the most important institutions in town should an earthquake actually strike. It’s likely in a big quake that there will be people injured after all. We’ll need our hospital up and running. Goodness only knows what our roads will look like, or other transportation infrastructure, so the closer to home we have expert medical care, the better.

Which naturally brings us to an expedited timeline for a new hospital being desirable.

Cowichan Valley Regional District chairman Jon Lefebure told us that we could possibly have a new hospital in as little as three years, following a meeting he had with the provincial health minister.

We think that’s probably overly optimistic, but let’s hope it’s not too far off the truth.

The big stumbling block is money (isn’t it always?).

To date, no provincial funds have been allocated to the Cowichan District Hospital project, which is at the stage of getting a detailed plan drawn up for the new facility.

On the Cowichan end, which is 40 per cent of the bill, our local government has been busily socking away cash for this eventuality for a number of years, and continues to do so. The hospital district has $35 million in a reserve fund, which is a tidy sum, though nowhere near 40 per cent of the $350 million total cost estimate.

We’re doing our part. We’ve now got to keep the pressure on the province to step up to the plate. We can only hope it doesn’t take an earthquake to shake loose the financial commitment.

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