Provincial health minister Adrian Dix spoke Friday to announce the upcoming construction of an expansion to Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Abbotsford hospital has ‘extraordinary’ challenges, says health minister as ER construction nears

Construction to begin this fall on expanded emergency department at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Abbotsford Regional Hospital “is extraordinary and faces extraordinary challenges,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Friday at an event to announce the selection of the builder for an expanded emergency department.

The congestion-plagued hospital’s emergency department is slated for a $15 million expansion, with another $1.25 million slated to buy equipment for the new facility.

Twelve patient exam rooms and new trauma bays will be included in the new area. The project will also see renovations to the existing triage area and stretcher bays, along with the relocation of ambulance bays.

New lounge areas and bathrooms will also be added. Construction is expected to begin this fall and continue until 2021.

“The new emergency department is specifically designed to better identify and coordinate care for patients from the moment they come in,” Dix said.

The project was first announced in the spring of 2017 by the previous Liberal government. Although officials said at the time that construction would start in 2018, construction was bumped back a year due to what Fraser Health said were structural and organizational adjustments to improve the existing emergency department.

The department is one of several areas in the hospital that are plagued by overcrowding.

Although the time to first see a doctor is in line with averages across the region, figures show that two of every three admitted patients wait in the emergency room longer than 10 hours. Last year, Abbotsford hospital operated 17 per cent over capacity in its acute care wards, a figure only topped among larger hospitals by that in Chilliwack. The ER expansion won’t address the demand for a lack of beds, but Dix and Fraser Health CEO Victoria Lee said officials are aware of those constraints and trying to fix them.

“We obviously have to improve services in the community, we have to deal with patient flow issues in hospital, we have to ensure people have a place to go so they can be discharged … and we have to ensure there’s excellent primary care,” he said.

The project was first announced two years ago by the previous Liberal government. That announcement came less than two months after a three-year-old girl died after being sent home from the ARH emergency room. Nimrat Girl was later found to have had an “invasive” bacterial infection.

On Monday, Dix pushed back against the suggestion that he was re-announcing a project that had been initiated by the previous Liberal government two years ago. He said the 2017 announcement came just before that spring’s provincial election and didn’t include the planning that preceded Friday’s media event.

“Some press release writers got writers cramp, but other than that they meant very little.”

He said that Friday’s event differed because “we’re well along the way, we have a successful bidder on the project … we’ve done the work, we’re ready to go, we’re starting to build.”

RELATED: Abbotsford ER expansion will improve work conditions: doctor

RELATED: ARH emergency department to get $15 million expansion

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