Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has hit local governments with an unexpected tab for $600,000 towards the renovation of the mental health unit at St. Mary’s Hospital.
Not included as part of the hospital expansion project, the funding request “came out of left field” for Sunshine Coast Regional Hospital District board members when they met Oct. 25, said chair Donna Shugar.
“We knew about the change, but we didn’t know we’d be asked to contribute,” Shugar said.
VCH would cover $900,000 of the $1.5-million project under a standard funding formula for projects that sets the hospital district contribution at 40 per cent.
Shugar said board members were surprised by the request because VCH had made an earlier presentation on the mental health unit renovation, but no dollar figure was attached.
At 40 per cent, the hospital district’s share of the St. Mary’s expansion project is now sitting at “just over $15 million,” Shugar said.
The new request will be included as a possible budget item for 2013.
“We have some reserves, but whether we want to plow all our reserves into this will be up to the board. We haven’t discussed it yet,” Shugar said. “My understanding is that this is a very necessary project.”
In his Oct. 25 submission to the board, VCH regional project planning director Johan Marais said the mental health unit’s current design “is inappropriate and poses significant safety and security risks for staff and patients.”
An inspection in May rated the unit a four out of five for risk impact.
The unit has poor sight lines and single access points for key areas such as the nursing station, where as a result “staff and security have been trapped” inside, Marais wrote.
As well, patients are at risk of elopement, and when the main elevator is out of service, medical patients have to be escorted through the unit.
The unit has a history of critical incidents and from March to September 2006 was closed due to safety risks, he wrote.
The VCH funding request included two other new projects — roof replacements for Totem Lodge ($350,000) and the St. Mary’s Hospital laundry room ($450,000).
Deemed well beyond their predicted life cycles, both roofs are leaking and leaks “can cause potentially severe infection control problems,” Marais said in his submission.
The requested local government share for all three new projects comes to a total of $920,000.
The boundaries of the hospital district are the same as the Sunshine Coast Regional District and board members are the same.
Started in 2010, the St. Mary’s expansion project is expected to be fully complete in 2014, almost doubling the facility’s size. Completion of the new 5,400-square-metre hospital wing ran into technical delays and is now scheduled to open next spring.