St. Paul’s moving to False Creek Flats at a price of $1 Billion

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

Attended a news conference Monday where Providence Health Care officials unveiled plans to build a new “state-of-the-art” hospital on the False Creek Flats.

No surprise, there were many doctors there.

Also saw philanthropist Robert Lee and Police Chief Jim Chu in the crowd.

But I didn’t see any city politicians in the room.

Hmmm … you would think maybe Mayor Gregor Robertson might be on hand for an announcement about a $1 billion project that affects one of the last big pieces of vacant land in the city.

Maybe his absence had something to do with the fact the city had assumed St. Paul’s Hospital on Burrard Street was staying put.

After all, Premier Christy Clark did commit in June 2012 to redeveloping the century-old hospital. I tracked down the news release from the premier’s announcement.

And I quote: “St. Paul’s Hospital delivers world-class care to families in Vancouver and from across British Columbia. Finalizing the concept plan is a critical milestone that will lay a strong foundation for a redeveloped hospital that ensures patients and families continue to receive that world-class health care for years to come.”

If you’re counting, yes, she did say “world-class” twice.

So with the premier on record in 2012 and the city going ahead with planning the future of the West End (which incorporated St. Paul’s) and the False Creek Flats (which is heavy on providing job space) then Robertson’s absence is understandable.

The mayor told reporters Tuesday that Health Minister Terry Lake informed him last week about the new project. While Robertson hopes to see a net increase in services for mental health and addictions at a new facility, he is worried that West End seniors, HIV/AIDS patients and others who rely on St. Paul’s won’t receive the primary and emergency care they need.

“It remains a concern to find out their final decisions late in the game,” he said of the announcement by Providence, which is working with the province on the proposal. “We were deep in a planning process. There were certainly rumours about the province moving St. Paul’s facilities to False Creek Flats but nothing substantiated for years.”

Added Robertson: “There needs to be more cooperation. When we’re planning for the long term, it’s good to have more notice with the major moves from our government partners.”

At Monday’s news conference, the project’s lead manager Neil MacConnell said Providence still has to have “significant conversations with the city” about the new hospital.

MacConnell and Lake also promised consultation with West End residents, who will be without an emergency department, MacConnell announced Monday.

As for Clark’s commitment in 2012 to redevelop the hospital, Providence’s president and CEO Dianne Doyle explained Monday that an analysis concluded redevelopment wouldn’t be good value for money spent.

Now it’s up to the St. Paul’s Foundation to raise at least $500 million towards the $500 million already promised by the province for the project.

Then, if the new hospital opens by 2022 as planned, the public and the mayor of the day — likely not Robertson, but who knows — will be able to say whether it’s worth the money.

Meanwhile, the old St. Paul’s remains open.

©Vancouver Courier

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