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Redevelopment of Burnaby Hospital on time and on budget to date: chief project officer

New cancer centre, 160-bed in-patient tower planned in phase two

A render of Burnaby Hospital’s redevleoped site. Fraser Health.

On Sept. 13, the BC government announced the second phase of the Burnaby Hospital redevelopment plan, which will include a new cancer centre and tower. Phase one is already underway and expected to be fully operational by early 2025. The current budget for both phases of the project is $2.4 billion, making it one of the largest healthcare projects in the province.

While there have been some criticisms about the project and speculation about the project exceeding its budget, according to Chief Project Officer and Executive Director of the Burnaby Hospital Redevelopment Program, Noor Esmail, the project is currently expected to remain within the budget and to be completed on time. Esmail added that unforeseen events do happen, such as pandemics and other crises, and in such circumstances the budget and timeline may change.

Burnaby is one of BC’s fastest growing communities and it is projected to be home to over 100,000 more people by 2050. According to Esmail, Burnaby Hospital has not had any major upgrades in 40 years. “The project is in response to ageing infrastructure, ensuring alignment with current standards and codes, and expanding our capacity to meet the growing demand for healthcare services,” Esmail said. He added that the hospital will become a state-of-the-art facility with the latest treatment technologies and expanded capacity. A new, highly advanced cancer treatment centre will be part of the second phase.

The first phase will be completed in 2025, and construction for the second phase will not start until phase one is done. The reason for this is that for phase two, the entire West Wing will be demolished, as well as the Cascade Building which previously housed mental health care facilities, and all equipment and staff from those two buildings will be moved to the new extension of phase one. Phase two is expected to be completed by 2030, meaning that Burnaby residents will have to wait seven more years before they can benefit from the new cancer centre and in-patient tower.

In the meantime, Esmail told The Beacon there will be no delays in treatment, and patients will have full access to healthcare in the interim. Barring any other emergencies or sudden events–like a pandemic–surgeries and other treatments will be on time. “There can always be hiccups along the way, but right now there are no impacts expected,” Esmail said.

Funding for the project is split between the province, the Burnaby Hospital Foundation and the

There are also private donors such as the Beedie family, which donated $8 million to the project. According to Esmail, “Phase one of the project will add approximately 15,500 building gross square metres. Phase two of the project will add approximately 26,000 building gross square metres of additional building space.” This means that the new development will almost double the size of the current hospital.

The new project will also involve expanding the hospital's emergency services , with an additional 23 bays in zone one. Further expansion to the emergency room will take place in phase two of the project to include 104 treatment spaces. Esmail added the hospital will hire new medical and support staff. In the first phase of the Burnaby Hospital redevelopment project, the hospital will hire approximately 120 new Fraser Health staff. During the second phase of the project, it will hire close to 840 additional Fraser Health staff.

While working on such a large project is challenging, Esmail said there are many advantages. “When we think about our job, we might have ups and downs, but working in healthcare is so rewarding, so fulfilling, it’s not like building a condo where it’s just going to go to market and people are going to make money. This is life and death and people work so hard. A place like a hospital is a place where you go to say your first hello, you’ll go in a time of need to get care, and then to say your last goodbye. So it’s such a privilege to be a part of it. Any time I feel like I'm having a bad day I think about all the staff and medical staff who did whatever it takes during COVID…to provide exceptional healthcare.”

Currently, there are approximately 65 Fraser Health staff supporting the Burnaby Hospital redevelopment project.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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