Planning for a new hospital in Surrey will get underway soon, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced recently.
It is long overdue.
The Surrey area – including White Rock and North Delta – is the most underserved in the province, when it comes to acute-care treatment. Anyone who doubts that needs to spend some time at the Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department, which has long been the busiest in B.C. Although a new and much-expanded ER has improved things somewhat, and a separate area for children has proven a welcome innovation, it is still a challenging place to visit if you are sick.
Technically, SMH is the only acute care hospital in Surrey. However, there are at least four others that are impacted significantly by the city’s continued growth in population. Peace Arch Hospital – located in White Rock right on the border – serves a significant portion of the Surrey population. More and more Surrey residents have been visiting its ER as an alternative to SMH.
Langley Memorial serves a significant number of Surrey residents, primarily from Clayton and Cloverdale. Delta Hospital, although smaller than most in the region, attracts some patients from the Surrey area.
Royal Columbian in New Westminster handles a lot of Surrey patients – both in providing more advanced surgery and care than is available in Surrey, but also in terms of proximity.
Surrey has more than 500,000 residents. For years, politicians at the provincial and local levels have campaigned on the importance of providing more health services, but improvements have been slow to come. The Jim Pattison outpatient centre has taken pressure off nearby SMH, a cancer clinic at SMH has been a real godsend for cancer patients from the area, and SMH has undergone numerous expansion projects in the past 25 years.
However, the needs have always outstripped any improvements made. In essence, health-care providers are always playing catch-up.
In addition to the lack of planning for an additional hospital (until the announcement was made), Fraser Health and the province have been highly negligent in selling off a site earmarked for another hospital at 152 Street and Highway 10, and failing to put in specific programs to attract more family doctors to Surrey.
Dix noted that 90,000 residents in Surrey do not have family doctors. That is close to 20 per cent of the population. When they are sick, they go to clinics or the ER. If they choose the latter, this adds to the congestion.
Dix said $3 million will be spent for concept planning for a new hospital, a process that should be completed within a year. However, it is likely there will not be a new hospital in place for six to 10 years. Given that the site that could have been used is now a shopping centre, finding a new one will likely be part of the delay.
Whatever site is chosen, it needs to be somewhere central, not in North Surrey or South Surrey. The populations in Newton, Panorama, Fleetwood and Cloverdale are growing fast and the need for acute-care services is great.
Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Now-Leader.