The long-awaited expansion of the emergency department at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni is expected to get underway in March.
The province said Friday the $6.25-million redevelopment will support improvements to patient care and privacy at the hospital.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said a request for proposals was issued this week for a lead construction manager for the project, which will include a 2,626-square-foot expansion, as well as improvements to the existing emergency department space.
Three new patient exam beds will be added as well as extra space for patients awaiting tests and results, a seclusion room for patients in need of emergency mental health care, improvements to the triage and admitting area and two separate entrances for ambulances and the public.
Completion is planned for summer 2022.
Mid-Island Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne, who served as chair of the hospital board while mayor of Tofino, said she was elated to finally see work getting underway.
Discussions for the expansion have been unfolding since 2014 as the Alberni-Clayoquot region’s population continues to grow.
Osborne noted there have been more than 25,000 patient visits to the emergency department over 2019-20, including people from Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet, Bamfield and surrounding First Nations.
“We’ve discussed this many times and I know how important it is to have the voices heard,” she said.
The project’s costs are being shared between the province, which is providing $2.55 million; the West Coast General Hospital Foundation, which has pledged $2 million; and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District, which will contribute $1.7 million.
“Expanding and improving the emergency department at West Coast General is critical not just for Port Alberni, but all of the west coast communities, said John McNabb, chairman of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District.
“This is a significant pledge for our foundation, but we believe it is the right thing to do for all of the families who will need the services of this hospital in the future.”