In September 2020, the provincial government announced its approval of a concept plan for a new surgical tower for Prince George at University Hospital of Northern B.C.
Three-and-a-half years later, there is still no sign of when ground will be broken on construction to upgrade operating rooms, create a cardiac care ward and a mental health/addictions unit.
The design of the building and what it will contain has yet to be publicly released.
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, the BC United opposition health critic, says it’s time for the government to stop dragging its feet and get underway with the $700 million project. She said the NDP has had ample time to move the tower project forward and it’s now looking like it won’t be complete until 2030.
“We are seven years into this government’s term and we are no closer to seeing a date for a revitalized University Hospital of Northern B.C. and that’s not acceptable,” said Bond.
“I remain deeply concerned about the fact we’re still discussing a business case instead of having shovels in the ground. When you think about the overcapacity at the hospital, the professional and medical staff are burnt out," she said. “Prince George needs to be at the top of the priority list and I’m going to continue to advocate with Minister Dix and Premier Eby to make sure we get the resources we need here at UHNBC.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the new tower for Prince George in 2020 a day before then-Premier John Horgan called a snap election.
“There was a profound need for an upgrade project at UHNBC, which has become a major hospital in British Columbia - it doesn’t just serve Prince George but of course the whole region,” said Dix, in his announcement.
The new tower, expected to rise six stories, will be built on the site now occupied by the Northern Interior Health Unit just east of the main hospital building along Edmonton Street.
In late December, Northern Health spokesperson Steve Raper announced there was no provision in the surgical tower business plan to construct a rooftop helipad to land critically-injured and acutely-sick patients brought by helicopter to the hospital.
“It just shows how out of touch the government is with the people that live in this part of northern British Columbia,” said Bond. “We are a major regional referral centre and if we’re going to revitalize UHNBC it needs to have all the things that serve the people who live in the north, and of course it should have a helipad."