Province plans to sell Willingdon site, no plans to move Burnaby Hospital: Minister

Burnaby Hospital - NEWSLEADER FILE
Burnaby Hospital
— image credit: NEWSLEADER FILE

Despite suggestions by some that Burnaby Hospital should be moved to the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way, the province plans to sell off the property, said Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan.

She was commenting on the controversy and allegations of potential political interference in the Burnaby Hospital Community Consultation Committee's report, resulting from the NDP's release to media last week of emails between committee members and Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid.

"My cynicism is fuelled by the fact the provincial government is now trying to sell that Willingdon property," said Corrigan.

It has been suggested by a number of people, most notably Burnaby council, that the aging hospital should be replaced with a new facility on the former youth detention centre site on Willingdon, to improve access and create synergies with nursing and other related training programs at B.C. Institute of Technology across the street.

Corrigan said the province is "selling off the assets of the province" without thinking of the strategic potential of relocating the hospital.

"This is how tainted this whole thing is. Supposedly you have this impartial look at the future of Burnaby Hospital and at the same time the province is quietly trying to figure out how they can sell the [Willingdon] property."

Parts of the expansive property are currently being used by the Maples Adolescent Treatment Center and the Burnaby Center for Addictions (VCH), as well as for anĀ  assessment centre for Community Living B.C. and an office of the Ministry of Social Development.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance said the province has "no immediate plans to sell it."

"That said, it is valuable property and the buildings are nearing the end of their useful life," the spokesperson said, adding that there are no plans to relocate Burnaby Hospital at this time.

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid confirmed that assessment.

"My understanding is that site is currently considered to be surplus to government needs," MacDiarmid said. "It's actually costing taxpayers money now and there are a number of properties like that and so the intention is to sell at market value, which is considerable, and then let the private sector use it to generate new economic activity."

She said there are no plans to relocate Burnaby Hospital, particularly as there is infrastructure on the current site that could be reused to save money compared to building a brand new facility.

"In a perfect world where there is unlimited capital and we had money growing on trees, we could look at those kinds of things ... There is just tremendous pressure on this capital budget."

In Fraser Health Authority alone, there is work that needs to be done at Surrey Memorial, Royal Columbian, Burnaby and Eagle Ridge hospitals, she said.

"I can't imagine how we could justify it to the taxpayer to say we'll spend substantially more than we would have needed to by choosing a different place to locate a building. I can't imagine us trying to justify that to taxpayers, not only within Burnaby but right around the province."

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