Move Royal Columbian Hospital to Riverview?

A Coquitlam councillor is calling on the province to relocate Royal Columbian Hospital to the Riverview grounds.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
A Coquitlam councillor is calling on the province to relocate Royal Columbian Hospital to the Riverview grounds.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

All or part of the newly expanded Royal Columbian Hospital should be moved the Riverview Hospital grounds, Coquitlam city council said this week.

The plea to the provincial government and Fraser Health Authority came as a surprise on Tuesday evening after council wrapped up its regular business, waived a request for the usual two-week notice of motion and unanimously supported a partial or full relocation of the regional trauma facility that has been located in New Westminster for 149 years.

Coun. Mae Reid, who chairs the city’s land use and Riverview advisory committees, said the request for the government to use Riverview as a full medical institution “is not new” and, before the summer break, Mayor Richard Stewart spoke with the Tri-Cities’ two BC Liberal MLAs about having some or all of RCH built on the historic mental health lands.

Council’s pitch for the relocation was also timed with the release of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Doug Horne’s constituency newsletter, in which he wrote about the future of health care in the Tri-Cities, saying: “One solution that I have been promoting and should be explored further is to build a new state-of-the-art trauma hospital on Riverview lands.”

Neither Horne or Iain Black, MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam, was available for comment on Wednesday but Coquitlam-Maillardville NDP MLA Diane Thorne, whose constituency includes Riverview and who has campaigned to keep the grounds in public hands, said she had no idea Coquitlam city council wanted RCH.

“I’m totally out of the loop on this,” Thorne said, adding, “If it’s another full medical trauma institution, there’s no way that I’m going to go out on a limb to say that I would support that.”

“I have not heard of any plans to relocate Royal Columbian,” Port Coquitlam NDP MLA Mike Farnworth said, “and I don’t think New Westminster would even remotely entertain the idea. The focus at Riverview should be on mental health. And what about our existing hospital in the Tri-Cities, Eagle Ridge? What we need to do is improve the service levels at Eagle Ridge.”

Earlier this year, Coquitlam council urged Fraser Health to make the community hospital, which is based in Port Moody, fully operational according to its mandate.

Coun. Brent Asmundson told The Tri-City News on Wednesday he brought forward the motion to relocate RCH “because it’s an idea that I had rolling in my head for a little while. We are the fastest growing area in the region... and Royal Columbian is difficult to get to. It would be a benefit to our region to move it to Riverview.”

Mayor Stewart agreed the current New West site is constrained and the transportation improvements happening around Coquitlam make the 240 acres of provincially owned property at Riverview “a perfect location” for a medical facility.

“We are the largest community in the province without a hospital inside its boundaries,” he said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Coun. Barrie Lynch, who this week announced his intention to challenge Stewart for the mayor’s chair in this fall’s election, also said a relocation would be “an interesting concept” but he cautioned that New West had already lost one hospital — St. Mary’s — “and there would be resistance to losing a second,” he said, adding, “The last thing we want to do is to be seen as a community that’s trying to take resources away [from another].”

As well, Lynch, a paramedic, said response times are key factors when health regions decide where to place medical centres.

In March, New West city council urged the provincial government to move to its next phase of planning for the RCH expansion. Hospital officials have sent expansion and renovation proposals to Victoria but, to date, no decisions have been finalized to increase capacity.

Health ministry spokesperson Stephen May told The Tri-City News the province has made capital upgrades at RCH since 2006, including a new regional renal centre to house all dialysis programs, a second CT scanner, a new 16-bed ICU, a new 10-bed cardiac surgery ICU and a second MRI.

“There would be a significant number of costs and risks associated with establishing a new level 1 trauma centre in any location,” May wrote in an email. “Fraser Health has submitted a concept plan for the redevelopment of the Royal Columbian Hospital to the Ministry of Health. This is a significant undertaking, one that deserves our time and attention to thoroughly review. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners at Fraser Health on this important project.”

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