Island Health defends pay parking model for new Campbell River Hospital

Funds from pay parking go towards subsidizing Island Health's financial challenges

The chief officer of the North Island Hospitals project was in Campbell River Monday to update council on the progress of the city’s new hospital and at the same time, defend Island Health’s decision to implement pay parking.

Tom Sparrow, chief project officer for Island Health, acknowledged that “pay parking is of course an issue” and said Island Health has received several letters in opposition. But Sparrow said the decision to put in pay parking – which will be eliminated for volunteers and auxiliaries – at the new Campbell River Hospital was made to help alleviate Island Health’s financial burden.

“With pay parking, the funding does go towards maintenance and security of the facilities and it helps to support our operating budgets,” Sparrow said during his presentation to city council. “Unfortunately, from Island Health’s perspecitve, our operating budgets are incredibly tight and so this is one way to subsidize the financial challenges we have.”

Island Health announced last week that fees for parking will be determined based on the parking rates at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in the Comox Valley and at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

At St. Joseph’s, it costs $1.50 to park for one hour, $2.25 for two hours, $7 for the day and $25 for a week long permit. In Nanaimo, parking rates are $2.25 for two hours and then $1.25 for each hour beyond that.

Mayor Andy Adams acknowledged that “parking has been a very sensitive topic in the community” and added that he appreciated Sparrow touching on the topic. Beyond that comment from Adams, however, council was silent on the pay parking issue which has been condemned by members of the public, the mayor of Alert Bay, MLA Claire Trevena, and denounced by the Comox Strathcona Regional District Hospital Board.

Meanwhile, council heard that the new $274.5 million Campbell River Hospital, which will have 95 beds and is being built next to the existing hospital, is on time and on budget.

Sparrow said Island Health has been pleased with the exceptional work of the contractors.

“I did a site tour last week and I can’t believe the progress, the contractors are doing a phenomenal job,” Sparrow said. “Quite honestly, Campbell River’s is a few weeks ahead of the (new) Comox Valley hospital.”

He added that there are more than 300 trades people working on site and that as of September, 78 per cent of the labour force working on both hospitals is comprised of local hires. That translates to 216 local workers in Campbell River and 191 in the Comox Valley.

Sparrow said Island Health has plumbing and mechanical apprentices working on site, as well as electrical apprentices.

“There’s been an incredible amount of work done by working with North Island College which has expanded their programs to meet the needs and demands of our project,” Sparrow said.

Before wrapping up his presentation, Sparrow also recapped some of the features of the new hospital which include artwork on the walls, a bistro, an All Nations room and healing gardens that will incorporate some of the natural herbs and medicine available in the area.

It will also feature some of the best views in the country.

“The views from this hospital are absolutely phenomenal, the best you’ll find in Canada,” Sparrow said. “Every room in this facility has incredible views and very large windows, so a lot of natural light and stunning views you’ll see from these rooms.”

Coun. Ron Kerr said he’s eagerly anticipating the opening of the new hospital.

“I’m really excited (and) look forward to seeing how it finishes up,” Kerr said.

The hospital is expected to be completed in late 2017.