The long-awaited expansion of Eagle Ridge Hospital's emergency room was announced this week, earning the approval of health care professionals who have been clamouring for years for more ER services to meet the needs of the Tri-Cities' growing population.
But the community will have to chip in for the work.
At a press conference Wednesday, Fraser Health announced it will kick in $22.6 million towards the cost of a $27.6-million ER expansion at the Port Moody hospital that will double the number of beds, reduce wait times for patients and provide isolation rooms for those with infectious diseases.
But before shovels can hit the ground, the community must raise the other $5 million.
The chair of the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation said she's confident in its ability to raise the large sum. Calling the goal "ambitious," Alison Johansen said the community is behind the expansion and will come through with the necessary funds. "We are confident our community recognizes this expansion is necessary to meet the growing needs of our community."
"I know from speaking to our front-line staff that the new expansion of the emergency department is welcome news," said Michael Marchbank, Fraser Health president and CEO.
He said the expansion will increase the number of beds to 39, from 19, and include two trauma resuscitation bays as well as four new isolation rooms to enhance infection-control measures. There will also be separate entrances for walk-in patients and ambulance paramedics, and a pediatric area for families.
When complete — the target is the end of 2020 — the expanded ER is projected to be able to handle 68,000 patients per year, up from about 50,000 today.
PoMo Mayor Mike Clay welcomed the announcement of the expansion of the 33-year-old hospital as a step in the right direction toward providing the Tri-Cities with more service.
But he suggested the region may even outgrow this expansion, requiring more services in the future.
“They’re saying it’s almost doubling now," he told The Tri-City News, referring to the number of beds. "Well, by those numbers, it needs to be three-and-a-half times bigger. Anything is better than nothing… but hopefully this isn’t the last announcement for Eagle Ridge expansion for another 20 years."
Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP candidate Rick Glumac, on leave from his post as PoMo city councillor, raised similar concerns, noting that ER patients are often relocated to New Westminster's Royal Columbia Hospital, where there are more services, and only 168 of 200 beds currently at Eagle Ridge are funded.
"We're still getting the hallway medicine issue, this won't fix that," he said.
"We have room to handle [more services] but we don't have the funding," added Glumac, who said ERH's funding needs are on the NDP's "radar."
And while both Clay and Glumac are worried the $5-million contribution required of the hospital foundation will take dollars away from other hospital equipment needs, foundation staff say they have a plan in place to meet their funding commitment.
"It's an exciting day," said Charlene Giovannetti-King, hospital foundation executive director. "We know the community understands the need and will be on our journey to reach the goal."
The expansion project was also welcomed by Dr. Mike Mostrenko, head of the ERH ER, who told the assembled staff and politicians that it has taken six years of "begging, pleading and planning" to get to the approval stage for a project that will take some of the pressure off of the emergency department.
Indeed, the announcement comes just weeks after the Health Sciences Association raised concerns about hallway medicine being conducted at ERH during busy times, with patient beds out in the hallway.
HSA president Val Avery said the expansion is good news for staff who are working in an ER where there is not enough room to deal with patients properly.
"This is the best news," Avery said. "You've got a growing community. The resources you have don't meet the needs. There might some pains getting there but it's all good news."
Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Linda Reimer said she, too, is pleased with the expansion, and noted during her presentation on behalf of the provincial government that the "steps for this have been going on for some time."
When asked by The Tri-City News why the funds weren't announced months or years earlier instead of two weeks before the kickoff of the provincial election campaign, Reimer said that the business plan had to be created and approved first.
"It all takes time," she said.
SAFER AND MORE EFFICIENT
According to Dr. Mostrenko, head of the ERH ER, the new facilities that will be added will make the hospital not only safer but more efficient.
Currently, staff work in cramped confines and while there is an isolation room for patients with infectious diseases, there is no ante room where health workers can put on clean uniforms, for example.
The hospital expansion — paid for with $22.6 million in provincial funds and $5 million to be raised in the community by the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation — will provide four isolation rooms, where people with respiratory infections, can be treated.
"I think that is the future of medicine and that is a huge threat," Mostrenko said of infectious diseases.
There will also be more hand washing bays for staff, and separate entrances for ambulance paramedics and walk-in traffic so visitors don't have to witness traumatic events.
And for patients who need immediate lifesaving medicine, such as people with cardiac or respiratory arrest or those suffering from drug overdoses, there will be two resuscitation rooms where they can get one-to-one care with equipment necessary to sustain life.
Patient comforts will also be important, Mostrenko said, so there will be a pediatric area for families and the emergency department will also have windows in the care spaces.
"These sorts of things make the staff more efficient and patients more comfortable," Mostrenko said.
In order to expand the emergency department, health records will move to the basement of the hospital, diagnostic cardiology will move to the health records area, and rehabilitation services will relocate to a partially-vacant part of the hospital.
With funding approved, a request for proposals for detailed design and construction will now get under way. Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2018.