Nanaimo hospital gets funding as byelection nears


WATCH: Nanaimo’s hospital is getting a new intensive care unit. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced funding for the multi-million dollar project Wednesday morning. But, as Kendall Hanson reports, with a critical byelection coming, some are wondering if the announcement has more to do with politics than patients.

Built 55 years ago Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is aging. There have been improvements and renovation over the years but not many as critical as the addition announced Wednesday morning.

“So today on behalf of Premier Horgan and the government I’m proud to announce that a new intensive care unit will be built here at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital,” said Adrian Dix, BC’s Health Minister.

The new $33.8 million I-C-U will be three times larger than the current one and increase the number of available beds from 10 to 12.

A 2013 report called Nanaimo’s ICU one of the worst in Canada and a risk to patients.

“Physically we need more space,” said Dr. Ben Williams, Island Health’s Executive Medical Director for the region. “The region’s we have rooms, while our staff do a very good job, don’t have the facilities to do the kind of infection control that we need in this era.”

The announcement comes as a critical provincial byelection looms in Nanaimo.

Just yesterday BC Liberal candidate Tony Harris put out a news release saying if elected he’d fight for a new ICU at the hospital.

“Obviously, I’ve been pushing for [it] most recently publicly in my campaign and I’m just delighted. It’s really an urgent need for Nanaimo,” said Tony Harris, the BC Liberal candidate in the coming byelection. “It’s unfortunate that it’s come to a byelection time to make it happen but whatever it takes.”

But the health minister says politics didn’t have anything to do with the announcement.

“We drove this project from pretty much the time I became minister of health to today to get it done and to get it announced,” said Dix. “But it’s not for any other reason than the people of Nanaimo need this project.”

But Nanaimo’s new mayor and current NDP MLA Leonard Krog says it helps to have a government MLA to lobby for projects.

“What it does point out is that Nanaimo is getting the priority that it deserves,” said Krog. “It’s very clear from the minister’s remarks that this was not on the previous government’s radar or agenda at all.”

Construction isn’t slated to begin until early 2020 to be ready for patients in late 2021. It’s expected Krog will resign his seat at the end of this month allowing the premier to call a byelection in Nanaimo.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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