Indigenous leader says new Cowichan Valley hospital will help erase long-held mistrust

Indigenous leader says new Cowichan Valley hospital will help erase long-held mistrust

A British Columbia Indigenous leader says a planned 201-bed hospital replacement project will become a place of healing for his people after decades of fear of the current hospital.

Cowichan Tribes Coun. Albie Charlie says when the new $887-million project replaces the current Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, it will help erase long-held mistrust by Indigenous people in the area.

He says Cowichan Tribes members want to rebuild that trust after feeling they had to enter the current hospital through the back door.

Earlier this year, Cowichan Tribes leaders said racist comments were directed at tribal members by some members of the non-Indigenous community after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on the reserve.

Health Minister Adrian Dix told a news conference that racism in health care exists, citing a report last year that found widespread systemic racism towards Indigenous Peoples in B.C.’s healthcare system.

On Thursday, the Province announced that it was making strides towards construction on the new modern hospital project.

B.C. officials say that two major milestones have been hit including the land transfer and the issuing of a request for proposals (RFP).

“Now more than ever, we recognize the critical importance of our health-care system, and our commitment to replace Cowichan District Hospital acknowledges the priority we place on timely access to high-quality health-care services close to home,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “These key milestones bring us closer to getting shovels in the ground to bring the very best health-care facility to the growing communities of the Cowichan Valley.”

Dix says the new hospital will be three times larger — about 46,000 square metres (496,000 square feet) total — than the current Cowichan District Hospital in nearby Duncan and will be complete in 2026.

The Province says the emergency department will triple in size and accommodate 42,000 visits a year. The number of treatment spaces will also increase from 17 to 36, with two trauma bays, rapid access and discharge space, fast-track streaming space and a dedicated acute psychiatric space with two seclusion rooms.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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