Salt Spring hospital emergency department to get $10.4-million expansion

The four-bay emergency department at Lady Minto Hospital on Salt Spring Island will undergo a $10.4-million expansion, with construction expected to start in January and be completed in April 2023.

Upgrades to the hospital include construction of a 4,500-square-foot addition to the emergency department with its own entrance that will increase treatment rooms to seven from the current four.

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Other improvements include a mental-health and substance-use treatment room — the hospital now has a so-called quiet room for psychiatric services — a medication area, a dedicated triage desk, a nursing station from which assessment and treatment areas are visible, an ambulance bay, a decontamination site, accessible washrooms, and an expanded patient and family waiting area.

The current hospital was built in 1958 to serve a population of 2,000, and replaced the original six-bed hospital, which was built in 1914. The island’s population has since grown to about 12,000 permanent residents, plus visitors and cottage owners in summer.

The hospital currently has about 20 acute-care beds, a birthing suite, a palliative-care suite and 30 residential-care beds — expanded from a 15-bed extended-care unit opened in 1972. Additions have been made to the hospital throughout the years. with the last expansion in 1998. The hospital is open 24 hours, seven days a week, served by a group of family doctors, and offers laboratory services on weekdays.

“Today, there simply is not enough space—for treatment, storage, triage, pharmaceutical, specialized treatment for children, or for psychiatric patients,” according to the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, which has been fundraising for the expansion.

In its appeal for funds, the foundation said during life-and-death emergencies such as cardiac arrest and trauma, it is almost overwhelming trying to work safely in the restricted space. As well, vital equipment has to be stored outside the ER due to space constraints and patients are triaged by an admitting clerk rather than an ER triage nurse in the department — “a significant risk,” according to the foundation.

There is also no privacy for patients during treatment or consults, no dedicated space for mixing and dispensing medications, and no room for a ceiling lift, which forces staff to physically lift patients out of bed — issues the expansion is expected to address. The size and age of the facility also poses challenges for staff to meet infection-control requirements, the foundation said.

The bulk of improvements to patient-care areas and privacy will be funded by the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, which pledged $7.4 million, and the Capital Regional Hospital District, which is providing $3 million.

Island Health board chair Leah Hollins said the health authority is grateful to the foundation and regional district for the enhancements.

Dave Taylor, board chairperson for the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, thanked the community for its donations to the emergency department redevelopment fund.

Gary Holman, electoral area director for the Capital Regional District Salt Spring Island, said the project has been in the hospital district’s capital plan for some time.

To promote the area as a culturally safe and welcoming space for First Nations and Metis people, design elements are expected to incorporate Indigenous influences in artwork, furniture, fixtures or equipment.

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