Ideas, concerns mulled at Burnaby Hospital forum

Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy -
Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy
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There's certainly no shortage of ideas when it comes to the future of Burnaby Hospital.

During a public forum held by the Burnaby Hospital Community Consultation Committee at Cameron Recreation Complex Thursday evening, pre-registered speakers presented their ideas and concerns for the hospital, which is currently the subject of planning work being done by the health ministry and Fraser Health Authority.

Brenda Lock of the Massage Therapists' Association of B.C. proposed that a registered massage therapy clinic be included in the facility's future.

Nick Kvenich suggested a new hospital be partially funded by a $10 per visit patient levy, similar to the passenger levy at Vancouver airport.

The chair of the committee, Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, noted in an interview that there is $800 million in infrastructure on the hospital site now.

"With that infrastructure they're looking at how they can save that, by building on the existing site," he said of Fraser Health.

Options being considered include tearing down one of the old buildings, and moving its mental health facilities to the provincial site at Willingdon and Canada Way, he said.

The health authority is also looking to rebuild operating rooms to be larger to meet current standards and to accommodate the medical equipment now used that weren't common when they were originally built in the 1970s.

Bloy said so far, issues raised at the public forums have included concerns about parking, a suggestion that health care providers use more wireless technology, and even a suggestion that hospital food include more ethnically-diverse choices.

Another idea was for a quiet room with support workers for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault so they don't have to wait in the main reception area.

Committee member Dr. Ross Horton and Dr. Rebecca Nelson, both plastic surgeons, expressed concern at the lack of operating room time which has forced the hospital to turn away breast reconstructive surgery cases, following breast cancer treatment, and send such patients to Surrey or Vancouver.

Currently, three plastic surgeons at Burnaby Hospital must share seven hours a week of operating room time, said Horton.

Nelson noted that she was recently hired partly due to her expertise in breast reconstructive surgery. While she's also helping Surrey Memorial in its efforts to become a centre of excellence for microsurgery, she's becoming frustrated at the lack of resources in Burnaby to do what she was hired to do.

Local lawyer and former city councillor Garth Evans said he believes it would be better to build a new hospital than to try to retrofit what's there.

He suggested that if the hospital were to be built in a more central location in Burnaby, the current site could be sold for residential development to help pay for it.

The current facility is such a mix of systems and designs, "It would be extremely difficult to retrofit to the standard I think the people of Burnaby are entitled to," Evans said.

Saying it's "common knowledge" much of Burnaby Hospital is not earthquake resistant, Horton asked Evans what the risk is that city hall would condemn it and force it to close.

Evans replied that the city would have the power to revoke its occupancy permit but that the provincial government would have the power to overrule the city.

Committee member Dr. David Jones said a 2001 master plan for the hospital indicated the two oldest buildings on site would be demolished. He noted that to do any plumbing or electrical work in those buildings requires that those systems be shut down throughout the building.

Local plumber Vern Milani, another committee member, gave a presentation on the plumbing needs of the hospital.

Patients should not have to share washrooms, to prevent the spread of C. Difficile, and proper ventilation systems would also help prevent the spread of disease, Milani said. He noted that building materials used today are harder and easier to clean and don't retain disease organisms like older materials do.

"In this day and age you wouldn't be able to get away with what we have right now," he said.

Dr. Ed Dubland, head of the hospital's palliative care program, outlined a growing need for palliative care and estimated in 10 to 20 years the ward should almost double in size, from 11 beds to 20.

That's due to an aging population and medical advances that now allow people to live longer, he said.

Horton noted that the building where the program is currently located doesn't need to be demolished but is not well suited for acute care. He suggested it could accommodate a much expanded palliative care program instead.

The committee will present a report of its findings to Fraser Health in early September, said Bloy. "Then there will be a plan coming out end of September or October from Fraser Health taking into consideration everything that they've heard."


Future meetings

The next public meeting of the committee will be conducted in Mandarin, on Saturday, July 28, at Crystal Mall, 4500 Kingsway, Burnaby.

That's followed by: Thursday, Aug. 23, 5:30 to 8 p.m. at McGill library branch, 4595 Albert St., Burnaby; Saturday, Aug. 25, 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the Tommy Douglas library branch, 7311 Kingsway, Burnaby; Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Centre, 3075 Slocan St., Vancouver; and Saturday, Sept. 8, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Bonsor Recreation Complex, 6550 Bonsor Ave., Burnaby.

For more information or to register to present to the committee, email

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