MLA warns B.C. government may not renew St. Paul’s Hospital in West End

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MLA warns B.C. government may not renew St. Paul's Hospital in West End   Photograph by: Bill Keay , PNG

The NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End says he thinks the B.C. government may be preparing to renege on its promise to renew the aging St. Paul’s Hospital in its current location.

VICTORIA – The NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End says he thinks the B.C. government may be preparing to renege on its promise to renew the aging St. Paul’s Hospital in its current location.

Spencer Chandra Herbert said the strong buzz in his community from numerous sources is that the government is getting ready to announce it is closing the St. Paul’s emergency room and acute care services and build a different hospital on False Creek lands near Main and Terminal streets.

“What I’m hearing is that the government has effectively betrayed the folks of downtown Vancouver who they promised a renewed hospital at St. Paul’s,” he said Thursday.

“Basically they’re going back to the failed project they talked about doing between 2002 and 2005 when they decided, no, it was too expensive.”

Chandra Herbert said he’s also heard some of the existing St. Paul’s site on Burrard Street could be redeveloped as condominiums or office towers to generate revenue Mount Saint Joseph Hospital also might close, said Chandra Herbert.

Premier Christy Clark announced in 2012 there was around $500 million in the budget to replace the almost 120-year-old St. Paul’s Hospital, which isn’t seismically secure.

At that time, Clark anticipated the plan would include construction of a new out-patient care tower on the northwest corner of the St. Paul’s site, as well as seismic upgrades.

Clark’s plan was a reversal from the government’s position in 2010, when then health minister Kevin Falcon said the government and Providence Health Care, which runs St. Paul’s, both wanted to invest in the hospital’s existing Burrard Street location and not build at a second site.

The False Creek land was purchased in 2004 by the Vancouver Esperanza Society – which has close ties to the hospital.

Since then, the B.C. government and Providence Health Care have combined to pay $8.8 million in municipal property taxes, in order to keep the site under control as a potential development site for the hospital should government want to use it.

“Government remains firmly committed to revitalizing St. Paul’s Hospital,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement Thursday.

“St. Paul’s Hospital is an important part of the network of hospitals in the Lower Mainland, serving a large and growing population from downtown Vancouver, and from across the region. We are continuing to work with Providence Healthcare on the best to revitalize the hospital for the communities it serves.

“We must make sure that this fits within the future long term vision of health care in the region and across the province, focusing on more comprehensive community services and a partnership between Lower Mainland hospitals.

“We must also ensure that St. Paul’s Hospital can continue to serve the community while the revitalization project is underway.”

Chandra Herbert said the government’s “non-denial denial has effectively confirmed what I’m saying.”

rshaw@vancouversun.com