Centre enables public to keep tabs on new hospital

The new interpretive centre overlooks the project site from a bluff

With construction in full swing in the background, North Island Hospitals project heads and local civic leaders officially opened a new Campbell River Hospital Interpretive Centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.

“If you cannot hear me over the sound of the construction equipment behind me, that’s a good thing,” Comox Valley MLA Don McRae quipped. “That means the hospital project is continuing to go forward at breakneck speed, and it’s great to see these men and women on the site below us make certain it goes up as soon as possible.”

Representatives from Island Health, the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board, the City of Campbell River, local First Nations and project managment hailed the new interpretive centre, which overlooks the project site from a bluff at the end of a freshly graveled trail through the nearby trees.

“It’s just another point of interest to engage the community,” said Mayor Andy Adams. “There’s open houses, there’s things in the newspaper, but it just provides another point for people to come and have a look for themselves. That’s the kind of engagement that’s been going on since well before construction began and will continue for next couple years.”

The interpretive centre is build on a concrete slab, with signposts bearing site plans, an artist’s rendition of the completed building, construction schedules and other details about the $274.5 million, state-of-the-art hospital.

It includes benches built by students at Comox Valley School District’s Sandwick Technical School. The interpretive centre can be access via a trail running either from the back parking area of Yucalta Lodge or from Evergreen Avenue, near the City water reservoir between Dogwood and Birch

The new facility, directly behind the current hospital on 2nd Avenue, is scheduled for occupancy beginning in fall of 2017.

The ribbon-cutting was one of two held on Wednesday. A similar interpretive centre was officially opened at the $331.7 million Comox Valley Hospital in Courtenay, which is also currently under construction.

“It’s a truly momentous occasion,” said Charlie Cornfield, the Campbell River councillor who also serves as chair of the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board. “You get to see the project and how it’s building (up); it’s a little more and gets a little closer; and we’re all excited about that.

“And I know there’s no comp between Campbell River and the Valley, but we’re more ahead of schedule than they are.”

Cindy Inrig of the We Wai Kai band council welcomed participants to the traditional territory of the Lach-Kwil-Tach First Nations, and Marian Atkinson of the We Wai Kum band council spoke briefly.

“I want to take the opportunity to say how much I’ve enjoyed collaborating together for the design, the colours and everything that went into it,” said Atkinson. “It was a lot of work done together.”

Tom Sparrow, head of the North Island Hospitals project, said the Campbell River Hospital is moving from the design phase into the operational planning stage.

Throughout the construction, he assured, Island Health would continue to keep open the lines of communication with the public.

“We really would like to be able to support the community as much as we can,” said Sparrow. “The interpretive centre is just another one of those tools to enable us to provide information to the community.”