New hospital would be best investment

The most important investment central Island communities will make in the next decade is to expand and build a new hospital in Nanaimo.

To the Editor,

What will happen to the properties of Woodlands and Dufferin Schools?

The single most important investment central Vancouver Island communities will make in the next decade is to expand and build a new hospital facility in Nanaimo. This would be combined with an expanded medical training faculty, co-ordinated with Vancouver Island University.

The other projects that are getting most of our city’s recent attention are fine, and there’s no reason we can’t proceed with all of them in time. But whether or not another new hotel is built, we get the E&N rail restored, or encourage a new multiplex are all just extras when compared to having outstanding, modern health care and associated educational facilities.

There is simply no other factor that matters as much to the length and quality of our lives than the calibre of our hospitals and universities. Living close to a modern, innovative and patient-centred facility is a huge advantage, especially with an aging population. And there are spin-off benefits a health-care hub can create for the entirety of Vancouver Island and B.C. A modern hospital is not just for treating the sick, it’s a magnet for research and innovation.

There’s no reason central Vancouver Island can’t have one of the best hospitals in North America. The Mayo Clinic, after all, is in Rochester, Minn. The right kind of hospital can generate significant economic development. The Mayo employs 30,000 people in a community of about 200,000. It draws two million visitors a year.

A proper new hospital will only happen if the communities and government decide it’s a priority. In past years, we came to expect the government to build our health care institutions. But the money isn’t there anymore, certainly not enough of it, anyway. That funding gap creates both a burden and an opportunity. If the province bankrolled the construction of a new hospital, a per-capita funding model would be applied and we’d get the hospital that government officials figure is warranted for this area of the province.

Instead, if this community, along with other central Vancouver Island communities rally together, we can do much more than that. If we send a message to all levels of government, through our words and our philanthropic dollars, that we want to be leaders in health care, we can have the hospital we want, not the one that Victoria thinks we deserve.

There is an opportunity now for the City of Nanaimo, along with the School District 68 and VIU, to reserve these two adjacent properties, so that a world-class facility can be planned and built for the future growth that is sure to flood Vancouver Island.

The greatest priority of any government should be the health and wellness of the people. If we’re going to dream big about anything in the next few years, it should be around building the best new hospital in Canada. This isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s an opportunity to extend all our lifetimes.

David StewartNanaimo