Major hospital redevelopment begins with mental health

Gregory Dowsett wasn’t supposed to live as long as he did. Right from birth, he faced some complicated health problems. His death at the age of 25 devastated his mother, Marilyn.

The grief was overwhelming, and Marilyn describes having regular panic attacks. “We went to a barbecue once, and I actually stood in the middle of this backyard and screamed at the top of my voice,” she recalls.

Marilyn was treated in Royal Columbian Hospital for over a month, followed by support in an outpatient program. “I met the most caring, compassionate people,” recalls Marilyn. “I was also amazed at who else was in the hospital—how many young people, how many ordinary people, people that didn’t seem different. They were just struggling with life.”

Psychiatric care is the centrepiece of phase one of Royal Columbian redevelopment. Construction begins this year on a new Mental Health and Substance Use Wellness Centre. It will provide a significant opportunity for groundbreaking research, increased psychiatric training and state-of-the-art patient care.

At four floors, the centre will offer two and a half times as many beds, including a 20-bed Older Adult Psychiatric Unit—a first for Fraser Health—to serve the unique needs of seniors.

Joyce Kubu-Haynes, now in her 70s, has experienced the benefits of Royal Columbian Hospital’s mental health program firsthand.

Her illness started with anxiety attacks when she was 30. “They were bad,” the Coquitlam resident remembers. “I went to see my doctor, and he said I should be in the hospital.”

She would eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia, which she now manages with medication.

“I can cope,” she says. “I am out almost every day.”

Outpatient psychiatric care will also benefit from the redevelopment, and the new centre will serve as the hub for mental health education, training and research within Fraser Health.

Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation is working with donors to raise $9.1 million for this project. Visit, call 604.520.4438, or email for more information.

© Burnaby Now