Nanaimo Regional General Hospital seeks funding for new patient tower and cardiac services

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The Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) is seeking support from the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) to establish a timeline for service upgrades that would make it a full-service hospital.

A report in 2010 concluded the hospital was structurally and functionally inadequate to support a major pandemic, according to Dr. David Coupland, president of medical staff at NRGH.

“Here we are ten years later — nothing changed and I can tell you it has been extremely difficult for our staff to deliver care during a pandemic in that hospital,” he said.

He said the hospital does not currently have the proper infrastructure to support the best modern medical practices and it creates a care gap between the central island and south island.

“We need a new patient tower in Nanaimo and a treatment centre to address the deficiencies in our 1963 building,” said Coupland.

The hospital is seeking advocacy and funding for a new patient tower, a cancer centre and complete cardiac services, including a catheterization laboratory. 

“Unless we have these facilities on site, we are not going to be able to treat heart attacks,” said Dr. Arun Natarajan, a cardiologist at NRGH. “We are living in a very urbanized populated place with so many hundreds of thousands of people and it’s very unusual that we don’t have this facility here.”

He said the current practice at NRGH for treating heart attacks is outdated and not having the proper services concerns him, given the demographic the facility serves.

Upgrading facilities will also help Nanaimo to attract more specialists to work in medicine. Natarajan said it is a challenge to get new cardiologists to want to work at NRGH because of the old facilities.

“Programs and funding and facilities have not matched the medical need and population growth in central and north island over the last 15–20 years and historical processes did not address this,” Coupland said.

NRGH is advocating for a timeline of five to eight years to have the new treatment tower. The BC NDP promised a new cancer centre in Nanaimo during the recent election, but Coupland is concerned because there is no plan in place yet.

“The opportunity is now and we don’t want to have to wait another 10 or 20 years and have another pandemic before we get a new facility and the programs we need,” he said.

The RDN Committee of the Whole passed a motion to send correspondence to the province, asking it to commit to a timeline for the new services at its March 9 meeting.

“We need to go to war to get this done, with the politicians, — the ones that are required. What is it going to take for us to go to the province and, ‘say come on guys, you have to help us out here?’” said Director Ed Mayne.

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