Premier Gordon Campbell got maximum political bang for the taxpayer’s buck today by taking advantage of the Olympic torch’s stop in Kelowna to celebrate the opening of a new UBC clinical teaching facility and to announce the construction of a new $448 million Interior Heart and Surgical Centre.
The Premier, in town for the torch relay, held a press conference inside the brand new 34,000 square-foot clinical teaching building on the Kelowna General Hospital grounds this afternoon.
The facility was first announced in 2005 and construction began in November 2008. It was completed this past December.
The building will be home to the Southern Medical Program which will officially start training doctors in September 2011. Students will spend the first year of their studies in Vancouver and transfer to Kelowna for the beginning of their second year, meaning the first cohort won’t grace the new facility until 2012.
“Since 2001 we’ve doubled the number of medical training spaces in B.C. From 128 to 256,” said Campbell, noting the number is slated to rise to 288 when the SMP finally gets under way.
The program is part of an initiative to train doctors in areas outside Vancouver on the premise that they are more likely to stay on and practice medicine in the regions where they go to school. Once it is underway, the SMP will be the fourth academic campus of the UBC Faculty of Medicine. The others are in Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Prince George.
The newly announced Interior Heart and Surgical Centre meanwhile, will include a new 139,590 square-foot building, a new 84,570 square-foot clinical support building and renovations to the existing Royal and Strathcona buildings. The programs currently in those two buildings will be moved to the patient care tower and a new clinical support building.
The province announced it was planning to bring cardiac services to KGH by 2012 last March. The first angioplasty was performed in November. Renovations currently underway will allow heart surgeries to begin on site by 2012.
The Premier said planning for the new centre will begin immediately but that construction likely won’t be finished until 2017.
“The $448 million is ready to go,” he said. “It’s on the location of an old building, so that’s got to come down…we have a lot of work to do.”
Once the new centre is fully operational it is expected to see 600 cardiac surgeries and 1,000 angioplasties every year.
Campbell noted that this area has one of the province’s fastest growing populations. “It’s a very popular place for people to retire to. Unfortunately as you retire, you’re likely to get a higher incidence of cardiac challenges.”
The Premier’s announcement was welcome news to the director of the Interior Health Regional Cardiac Services, Dr. Richard Hooper.
“We will now have the state of the art centre, not just for cardiac surgery, but trauma and all the other advanced surgical procedures,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how big this is.”
250-575-3517Premier announces $448 million cardiac centre for Kelowna