British Columbia’s health minister says progress is well underway for a second hospital in Surrey and hinted to the Now-Leader that a location has been found.
Minister Adrian Dix’s comments come in the wake of criticism from the BC Liberals, accusing the NDP government of putting the project “on the back burner” following the announcement of a new hospital project in Burnaby this week.
In a release, the BC Liberals call on Premier John Horgan to “provide a firm commitment to a second hospital for Surrey residents,” suggesting the project “has fallen by the wayside.”
“It’s been more than two years since John Horgan promised Surrey voters a second hospital – but Surrey seems to have been forgotten after election time,” said Stephanie Cadieux, MLA for Surrey South, in a release. “Surrey residents have been left in the dark with no timeline, no details, and no assurances. As far as they know, this has fallen completely off John Horgan’s radar.”
In that release, Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Marvin Hunt accused Dix of “avoiding responsibility” and “playing blame games.”
Dix told the Now-Leader the criticism is “beyond deceptive.”
“The Liberals in Burnaby, for example, had that in a planning process for 10 years and didn’t do anything and while that’s not very good, what they did in Surrey was worse,” Dix said Tuesday. “They actively opposed a second hospital. They were against it. No planning work was done. None. Zero. And there was no money assigned. And, of course, they sold off some of the land that could have been the site of the hospital.”
He’s referring to 5750 Panorama Drive, a property that the Liberal government sold off near the corner of 152nd Street and Highway 10 that’s currently being developed into housing.
It’s a move Dix called “irresponsible.”
“I think there’s always a right of opposition to criticize of course, but in this case, it’s really shocking they would do that,” Dix said of the Liberals’ comments. “The reason why the Surrey project is where it is, is because we were starting from zero. We were starting from an active opposition by the very people who put out that release yesterday. And that’s why it’s behind others…. There was one hospital when they took office in 2001, and one hospital when they left office in 2017.”
The NDP government announced a new “concept planning” process for a new hospital at the end of 2017 and Dix says the project has remained “actively engaged” since.
In May of that year, the party had promised voters it would begin that planning if elected. The Liberals called the move “desperate” at the time, while the NDP accused the reigning party of the day of ignoring the city’s growth.
“It’s a very high priority for me,” Dix said this week, of a new hospital in Surrey. “The key issue in Surrey is obviously the location of the hospital and when they say there hasn’t been information, obviously when you’re looking at locations, until you have established that and effectively purchased it or have the right to the location, you obviously can’t talk about it too much and so we can’t talk about that except to say that I expect an announcement soon by soon. By soon, I mean certainly this calendar year.”
Does that mean a potential location has been found?
“I wouldn’t be able to say we’re going to announce something by the year if we hadn’t,” he replied. “That was a real challenge for us in this case, obviously, since the Liberals sold off land.”
Dix said the government isn’t looking to build a second hospital near Surrey Memorial, or other hospitals that serve residents of this city including Peace Arch and Langley hospitals.
They’re seeking “geographical balance,” he noted.
“You want your hospitals to be quite accessible from a traffic and planning perspective. So that’s the work that we’re doing.”
Dix says once the location is announced, next to come in the process is the concept plan.
“Once the concept plan is approved then the hospital is going formally – what the concept plan approval means is it’s in the 10-year capital plan of the government. Next is the business plan phase, then you go to tender, award the tender, then the hospital gets built.”
He said this process has taken some time because “we were starting from scratch.”
Dix pointed to various other health care investments made in Surrey by the NDP government, including the Urgent Primary Care Centre, two new MRI machines, using existing MRI machines 24/7, new services for mental health and addictions, a new community health centre serving First Nations.