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Surrey Memorial Hospital to get new acute care tower

The project is expected to be in a business-planning phase over the next 15 to 18 months
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier David Eby announcing new acute care tower for Surrey Memorial Hospital on Monday, March 11. (Screen shot)

A new acute care tower will be built at Surrey Memorial Hospital on its south-west side, with a price tag not yet known but expected to be in the billions.

Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the project at a presser at the hospital on Monday morning.

“Surrey’s quickly growing population needs health care to grow with it,” Eby said. “People need to know health care is accessible, not after a long wait or a long drive to another community. World-class health care should be available right here in Surrey. Today, I am announcing that a new acute care tower is on the way for the Surrey Memorial Hospital to help meet local needs by adding more hospital beds and more services south of the Fraser River.”

The project is at the concept-plan approval stage but “it’s in the budget and we will deliver it,” Eby said. After it goes out to tender, he said, the government will have “a better idea” on construction costs.

“We are immediately into the place where we need feedback from the health care professionals who work here, from members of the community about what is needed, how to ensure that this tower delivers the care that the people of Surrey deserve,” he said. “We will be leaning on you for you advice, for your information, as we go forward and do this planning process.”

The project is expected to be in a business-planning phase over the next 15 to 18 months and its anticipated it will add acute and specialized care capacity to the hospital’s campus, including medical, surgical, pediatric, perinatal, women’s-health, mental-health and stroke care services. After that phase is completed, procurement will start and construction will get underway.

Kevin Falcon, leader of the opposition and BC United, called the tower announcement “clearly a very last-minute kind of announcement, I’ve been a finance minister, all the tell-tale signs are there. It’s done at the last minute, it looks rushed, there’s no clear timeline, there’s no business case. It’s something that’s obviously an attempt to change the channel on the fact that they have a series problem with anti-Semitism within their own caucus.

“Sadly what we’ve seen today is a government in crisis that is just trying to take this announcement and spit something out without anything in the budget that actually is allocated toward a second tower for Surrey Memorial Hospital,” Falcon charged.

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Dix said this new tower is among “historic investments in health-care services that will make a huge difference in the lives of people in Surrey.” Asked for a ballpark estimate of how much this new tower will cost, Dix told the Now-Leader that money is approved in the provincial government’s 10-year capital plan. “This kind of project, you’re talking about not millions but billions, right, and this kind of project if you look at other projects that are like this, are coming in right now in the neighbourhood of $1.3-$1.4 billion but we want to plan it out in detail because we have very significant ambitions for this project,” he said. “This is in our capital plan so by definition we have room for it. It should be said that is for Surrey, and for really any community in B.C., there has not been a time, and I have some understanding of the history of health care in B.C., we’ve never seen this level of investment.

“If there isn’t money for it in the budget, you don’t announce it. That’s just straight forward,” Dix said.

Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health, added it marks a “significant milestone in our mission to meet the dynamic health needs of our growing population.

“Our vision for the cutting-edge health-services campus is to inspire innovation and excellence for our patients, families and communities, and to be the best place to work for our teams,” she said. “What a momentous day.”

Surrey’s population is roughly 685,000 and grew at a rate of 3.8 per cent from 2022 to 2023, more than 2,000 people each month.

Surrey MLA Bruce Ralston called it a “fantastic, great, wonderful announcement.

“This is such a big day, one that will be of critical importance to our community,” he said. “Surrey is growing, everyone knows that, it never stops. You just look up King George and see the towers sprouting up there – the landscape changes every month. And with growth comes the need for services, more services, particularly health care.”

Dr. Marietta Van Den Berg, SMH’s medical director, noted that during the presser one if not two babies had been born there. “We honestly should be ringing a bell every time this happens.” On average 15 babies are born at SMH every 24 hours, she said.

“While these projects are exciting and hopeful, they will take time,” she noted. “This means that we’ll also will have long waits in our emergency department and we still will have hallway beds, for a while. I want to assure you that nobody in this hospital wishes to provide that kind of care. We do our best, despite that. What we want is a right-sized and right-sourced Surrey.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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