No psyche services for new hospital

Comox Valley facility will retain these services

At one point in the planning of the new pair of hospitals for our area – one in Campbell River and one in the Comox Valley – it was thought the Campbell River location would be the site of the region’s psychiatric services.

But that was not to be.

Since the current psychiatric facility is located in St. Joseph’s in Comox, the new Comox Valley facility will retain these services, and Campbell River will have no psychiatric services available at its new hospital.

At least for the time being.

That was one of the questions addressed by Chief Project Officer of the North Island Hospitals Project Tom Sparrow at last week’s public information session.

The quarterly presentations allow those involved in the project to give the community updates on its progress, as well as allow the public to have questions answered.

“What we’re finding in a lot of the public presentations we’re making nowadays,” Sparrow said, “is the questions are not really focusing anymore on construction. People are beginning to realize that these projects are real, and there are hospitals coming out of the ground.”

As if to illustrate Sparrow’s assertion, numerous voices in the crowd were raised in reaction to the presentation slide which showed the distribution of the beds available in each department of each of the two facilities.

Of the 95 beds in the Campbell River facility, 72 will be devoted to “Medical-Surgical,” six to “Intensive Care,” seven to “Telemetry,” seven to “Labour, Delivery, Recovery, Postpartum,” and three to “Pediatric.”

Numerous questions were raised about the 11 beds in the Comox Valley’s new facility dedicated to “Psychiatry,” the additional four beds for, “Psychiatric Intensive Care,” and why Campbell River’s facility had a zero in both those columns.

“Were there ever plans to include a psychiatric department up here, and if so, why was that scrapped?” came the first audience question on the subject.

“Originally there was,” Sparrow said. “But because the psych unit is already set up in the Courtenay area, the psychiatrists and all of the support staff already live in that area. For us to actually flip it over and bring it up here, it would have meant they would have all had to move up here, as well.”

He said that upon consultation with the clinicians and staff who provide those services, they heard that the preference was to keep the facility down in the Comox Valley.

A follow-up question from another audience member asked why they couldn’t have split the numbers of beds and had at least some psychiatric services in both new facilities.

“There’s economies of scale at play,” Sparrow said. “You’re dealing with a finite amount of support staff (for a particular health program). So if you’re splitting it up where you’re actually servicing from two different areas, that puts pressure on our ability to actually provide enough staff, enough resources, to support that.”

Basically, the cost of offering the same amount of medical service split over two locations increases substantially.

“You have to look at the feasibility of providing services well, you have to look at your resources to accommodate whatever that might be. The original plan was to have the psych unit up here in Campbell River,” Sparrow said again, but the team who provides those services decided they wanted to stay in the Comox Valley.

The good news, however, is that there is room for the Campbell River facility to grow to accommodate services like psychiatric, should it be determined in the future they are needed.

“This hospital is designed to accommodate an additional 40,000 square feet of space on level one, which means you could go out 40,000 square feet, and then you could go up three floors,” Sparrow said, implying there was consideration in the design phase for an additional wing to be added at a later date.

Also, the inside of the structure itself, as it’s designed, can be rearranged to accommodate more services, should they be needed in the future.

“Our administration area could be turned into a medical area, for example,” Sparrow said. “A lot of the ambulatory care could be changed into something else. We tried to design these facilities to include a lot of adaptability and scalability.”

The next public information is at Timberline on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.