A look at the change of location of St. Paul’s Hospital
St. Paul’s By the Numbers
- St. Paul’s is moving from the 6.5 acres on Burrard to a new 18.5 acre campus east of Science World
- Beds are increasing from 435 to 700
- New research and teaching programs being instituted due to increased space
The Movement of St. Paul’s Hospital
On April 13, 2015 the provincial government and Providence Healthcare announced they plan to move St. Paul’s Hospital to the False Creek Flats area for a tidy sum of $1.2 billion. This would close the current historic Burrard Street location, which has been a controversial topic for many Vancouverites.
The decision has the government and healthcare provider cancelling the then-current plans of revitalizing the 100+ year-old buildings.
The new state-of-the-art hospital campus will utilize the 18.5 acres available at the site for the hospital expansion, a substantial increase from the 6.5 acres at the Burrard Street location. This site was purchased in 2004 by partners in the project, and has been retained with the intention of a hospital upgrade since – at the cost of $800,000 in property taxes annually.
Adding to the Services
All facilities currently found at the existing St. Paul’s Hospital will be relocated to the new site. This includes the emergency room, surgical services and patient care. There will also be research and teaching programs, community care and outreach programs and now, with the addition of a seniors’ care center, a mental health and addiction program, and a low-risk birthing center. There is space enough to build a unique “campus of care” offering a variety of services on one site, charting a course for the future design of health care delivery.
This would increase the bed numbers to 700, up from 435 at the current location – also allowing for a greater increase in private rooms, as hospital-acquired infections are more likely when patients share rooms.
Dr. Julio Montaner, the internally renowned director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s, shared that one of the most exciting things about moving the hospital to a substantially larger site is the ability to combine clinicians and researchers to be on the same campus. Currently, St. Paul’s hospital leases over 100,000 square feet in commercial buildings around Vancouver because the current building is too cramped.
One of the many reasons moving the hospital instead of continuing the plan to upgrade the current location – which would have taken hundreds of millions of dollars for the much-needed seismic upgrades and other improvements – has been the willingness of the philanthropic community. Many have been cited as being more than a little hesitant, or even flat-out saying no, to donating funds to upgrade the size-constrained and dilapidating buildings.
Jimmy Pattison, the wealthiest person in Canada and well-known local Vancouverite, has indicated that he would be willing to make significant donations to a new, state-of-the-art hospital, but not to a fixer-upper. Private donations are important, as the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation must raise at least $125 million of the new billion-dollar-plus project.
Preserving a Piece of Our Heritage
The historic and nostalgic value of the façade of the current hospital is important to community members, and the current project lead, Neil MacConnell, says it would ideally be preserved. It is likely that the rest of the hospital would be demolished, which has been on the potential chopping block for over 35 years.
Timing Is Everything
The current downtown and West End communities are quick to point out the lack of emergency services that would be available to the immediate downtown core. This is countered by the Providence Health Care board members who state that this will increase transfer times by no more than 3-5 minutes and are also quick to point out that only 6% of those that use hospitals live within 3 kilometres of medical facilities.
They also make an interesting point of transportation times that most Canadians are used to; 30 mins – 3 hours is the average time a Canadian takes to get to a hospital.
Of course the Chinatown, Lower East Side, and Strathcona communities stand not only to gain closer access to the newest medical facilities in Canada, but also will stand to see a marked increase in property values.
The new hospital facilities and outreach programs could increase the demand for housing in the area, both from people who work at the hospital during or after construction, and from people who value living close to medical facilities.
The extra demand for housing triggered by the new hospital could put upward pressure on rents and property prices in the surrounding areas. These areas may continue to experience the benefit of increased demand well into the future, fundamentally shifting the nature of the local market.
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