Salt Spring emergency room appeal launched

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Salt Spring residents are being asked to contribute to a new emergency department for the island’s hospital, as the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation kicks off a dedicated “Strengthen Our Lifeline” fundraising drive this week.

Plans to replace the current emergency room (ER) space have been underway for several years. While Island Health would not commit to capital funding for the project, when $3 million in Capital Regional Hospital District funds were secured last October, the LMHF decided to raise and contribute the remaining funds.

As of today, the 240-square-metre (4,500-square-foot) facility comes with a $10.4-million price tag. The LMHF is committed to providing $7.4 million of that total and still needs to raise $2 million from the broader community.

“We are asking the community at large to please get behind this and put us over the top so we can build the new ER, which we firmly believe will ultimately be of benefit to every single person on this island,” LMHF chair Dave Taylor told the Driftwood last week.

Anybody who has been in or around the current emergency department will know that the 63-year-old space is woefully inadequate, primarily due to its small size and configuration.
Carol Biely is a LMHF board member who is thrilled to be chairing the fundraising campaign committee for such an important project.

“Who hasn’t been in there and come away with three comments . . . ‘Oh boy, didn’t have much privacy in there! Second, how on earth do those wonderful staff work in that cramped space? How do they do it day after day?’ And then recently, of course, ‘How are they really coping with infection control issues’ because it is so small.’”

Taylor said the new ER plan was developed after consultation with hospital and Island Health staff, and the facility should be able to serve the island’s population for the next several decades.

“It is a really good plan,” he said. “It deals with the infection control problem in an effective way. It provides space for the medical team and their equipment — safely. That is a real issue when you have an emergency trauma case: Just getting the equipment and the team around the patient to triage them and stabilize them and get them over to Victoria [if needed].”

The new emergency department will have a triage desk and waiting room, and the nursing station will have better sight lines so staff can keep an eye on all patient bays.

“There is a dedicated room for mental health and substance use treatment, which is at the front end of the issues we face on this island,” Taylor added.

In addition to contributing more than $1.4 million of LMHF reserve funds, fundraising team members have been working intensely for the past six months, directly contacting individuals and organizations deemed to be supportive. Among the $4 million in pledges gathered to date are two $1-million donations from individuals who wish to remain anonymous at this point.

Biely said the foundation is delighted with the level of support shown so far. 

“It just speaks to this wonderful community that really believes in this hospital. It has given us the confidence to move forward on this community campaign.” 

The LMHF team is also pleased that the Salt Spring Island Foundation has made a major contribution with $100,000 from the Shaw Family Community Fund. 

“We believe this contribution honours the legacy of the Shaw family, an island farming family that resolutely supported our community,” said SSIF chair Brian Lawson. “The Lady Minto Hospital and emergency department are an essential and important service for our island community and one with significant benefit for all, now and into the future.”

Kirsten Reite Architecture of Vancouver, which specializes in designing healthcare facilities, is the contracted architectural firm. The project is currently at the detailed design phase, and should go to tender this fall. Once all approvals are received, actual construction is expected to take 15 months. A May 2023 opening is the goal. 

Biely and Taylor are confident the expansion can be completed for $10.4 million, despite the current climate of rising constructions costs, with $2.7 million of the total consisting of three significant contingencies. (As well, $400,000 has already been added to last year’s estimate due to rising lumber and other material costs.)

People who want to donate to the campaign can visit the website ladymintofoundation.com/lifeline or respond to the brochure that should be in island mailboxes this week.

The foundation hopes the $2 million needed can be secured by Thanksgiving and encourages everyone to contribute what they can. 

“We want everybody to feel it is their project, because it is their hospital and everybody cares about it,” said Biely.  

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