Since a version of this story was published last week, Fraser Health has clarified that construction is expected begin sometime this year.
The expansion to the emergency room at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) will proceed, Fraser Health says. Officials say work is expected to begin later this year, with occupancy for the new ER area expected by October 2020. The project is expected to be completed by spring of 2021.
The $15 million expansion was announced in 2017, shortly before the provincial election that saw the BC Liberals lose power. Construction was originally slated to start in 2018, but that was pushed back until this year to accommodate a reorganization so that hospital officials could more quickly improve the chronically crowded ER.
Those changes saw a new mental-health and substance-use reception area shifted in order to hopefully free up more space for emergency care.
But the expansion is still in the works. Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said a request for proposals (RFP) was issued this year and recently closed. The RFP was not publicly posted. In a process managed by the Public Private Partnership (P3), bidding was only opened to a “pre-qualified list of general contractors,” Juma said. Contractors attended a “bidders” briefing, after which proposals could be submitted.
It’s not clear yet when the bid will be awarded and when exactly construction could begin. But Juma said occupancy for the new area is slated for October 2020.
When it was announced in April 2017, the project was slated to include 7,200 square feet of additional floor space for the ER, along with relocated ambulance bays, a nursing substation, and dedicated stretcher bays.
It was also slated to include a mental- health and substance- use area – although that has already been created.
The expansion was six months in the making, MLA Mike de Jong said at the time. But it came just a month after the province’s health minister said there had been no plans for an expansion. The 2017 announcement came after officials resurrected a previous expansion plan following media coverage of trouble at Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s emergency room.
Persistent congestion at ARH remains, although it is unclear whether a larger emergency room will fully alleviate those issues.
Last March, The News reported that ARH had been operating over capacity for years, leaving dozens of patients to be cared for in hallways and other unfunded areas.
That space crunch leads to congestion in the emergency room, where admitted patients have waited up to a week for space to be found for them in acute care wards.
Despite repeated requests, The News has not yet obtained provincial occupancy data for the most recent year. But the most recent report card for Abbotsford Regional Hospital shows that two-thirds of admitted patients still have to wait longer than 10 hours for an acute care bed. After years of improvement, it’s also taking longer to discharge patients who are awaiting care to be set up in the community.
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