VCH unveils preliminary plans to repurpose Shorncliffe, Totem

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has proposed two major projects to redevelop public residential care facilities Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge, in addition to moving ahead with a deal with Trellis Seniors Services to build a new long-term care facility on the Coast.

The plan emerged at a Sunshine Coast Regional Hospital District (SCRHD) meeting on Jan. 10, where two VCH staff presented a list of 10-year capital priorities that VCH had submitted to the Ministry of Health in September, and which regional planning director Johan Marais called “key priorities.”

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“At this point, these are very preliminary options that we have been discussing – they have not received approval or funding,” a VCH spokesperson told Coast Reporter following the Jan. 10 meeting.

At the top of that list was a project that would see the long-term care facility Shorncliffe redeveloped at a cost of $25 million. Third on the list was the replacement of Totem Lodge, costing $20 million. Both projects are identified as high priority by VCH and the Ministry of Health.

The Shorncliffe project would see the creation of 25 licensed dementia-housing beds, four hospice beds, six respite beds, an adult day program and support spaces. The project is intended to address a “significant gap” in the availability of long-term beds, according to the project description.

At the meeting, Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers asked whether the four hospice beds included in the Shorncliffe project would be replacing the ones included in the Trellis proposal. VCH director Lauren Tindall responded that the location of the beds is yet to be determined, adding “it is obviously pending conversation around the Silverstone [Trellis] development.” She also acknowledged the Coast has a need for more than four hospice beds and that those needs would be formalized in future planning.

The Totem Lodge replacement project would see mental health inpatient and outpatient services combined under one roof. Currently, six acute mental health beds are located in the hospital’s old tower while outpatient mental health teams are located in trailers.

Totem is also getting 13 acute beds, which “will be opening soon” where an auxiliary office and physician’s sleep lounge are currently located. The project would “create expanded inpatient acute mental health beds, substance use service beds and access to community mental health beds.” Parking would also be included in the upgrade. The project would address another “significant gap” – the need for acute mental health and substance use beds on the Sunshine Coast.

Also on the list was a surgical service renewal, costing $24 million. That project, if accepted, would allow for the construction of an additional endoscopy suite and expanded pre- and post-operation space, in order to decrease waitlists.

A helipad and parking redevelopment at Sechelt Hospital, with a budget of $18 million, was also on the priorities list, which Marais said at the meeting was “a little wishful thinking,” adding, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get it.”

All projects are at the preliminary planning stage.

Once the Ministry of Health selects priorities and adds them to its 10-year capital plan, VCH will proceed with concept and business planning.

Tindall said VCH has “not done any formal consultation at this point around the repurposing of either Totem Lodge or Shorncliffe.” She said “it would be prudent” to wait for a formal announcement about the Trellis facility, “just in light of the impact to team members, making sure that they’re looked after before we start looking at how we’re going to repurpose those facilities.” She added that formal community consultation would be a part of the process, which a VCH spokesperson also confirmed.

“VCH made a commitment to the community that we will be doing extensive consultation on how we can repurpose the Shorncliffe and Totem buildings once the new [Trellis-operated] Silverstone Care Centre moves forward, and we will be keeping that commitment,” said the spokesperson.

Tindall also told directors an announcement about Trellis could be coming in the next few months. “I’ve been told we are expecting something to happen most likely before spring. I could be wrong, things could change, but I do believe the announcement will come in spring,” she said. She also confirmed that VCH is still negotiating with unions to allow staff to keep their union affiliation and employment packages.

Tindall also said that “future capacity planning is underway to determine ultimate bed needs,” and that an additional 17 beds would be coming to the Coast through the Trellis facility.

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