It was two years ago, almost to the day, that MLA Shirley Bond and Mike Morris, amid a flurry of pre-election promises, announced the government was proceeding with a new surgical tower at University Hospital of Northern B.C.
It was a year ago, almost to the day, that Health Minister Adrian Dix was pressed about the issue and told Prince George the concept plan was received by the ministry in December of 2017, way too late for 2018 budget deliberations.
Last week, while announcing an urgent care centre for Prince George, Dix and Premier John Horgan were asked again about the status of the promised surgical tower.
“We’re working on that,” said Horgan, who pointed to several other capital health projects announced in northern B.C. “We have a whole host of acute care facilities that need attention. Prince George is on that list, we’re working diligently on that.”
Dix said the concept plan has been submitted, but hasn’t yet been approved.
The process for building such a large capital project, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, involves developing a site plan in the community. That is followed by the development of a concept plan. Once a concept plan is approved, which means there is money in the budget, a business plan is developed, the project goes to tender and building begins.
When asked whether it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’ Horgan replied: “I think that’s a safe bet … There’s a deficiency in many communities when it comes to acute care services. We’re knocking them off as responsibly as we can.”
Bond said she is glad to see the project is at the concept plan stage and will continue to press government to ensure the surgical tower comes to be.
“We need to deal with infrastructure deficits here in northern B.C.,” she said. “Today I’m relieved that we’ve got the concept plan on the agenda. But it’s always in that caveat that there are lots of communities that have needs. Prince George is a northern centre, it deals with thousands of patients from across northern British Columbia. We need to keep pressing to make sure that we move any improvements in infrastructure up on that list.”
She said Prince George has clearly demonstrated the need for a new surgical tower.