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HomeBusinessCeremony for Surrey’s second hospital was all for show

Ceremony for Surrey’s second hospital was all for show

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Bob Mackin

The sign at Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix’s Sept. 12 sod-turning ceremony for the second Surrey hospital in Cloverdale said “under construction.”

However, three days later, on the morning of Sep. 15, an excavator used as a prop for the event, which featured NDP government and Fraser Health Authority officials, was hauled away from the site beside the campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Tech Campus.

Excavator hauled away Sept. 15 from site of future hospital (submitted)

“Why hasn’t construction already started?” asked Anita Huberman, the Surrey Board of Trade’s CEO. “Why were construction equipment being taken away from the facility when it should be beginning immediately? Every single day construction costs escalate.”

Huberman said healthcare needs to be depoliticized because it is a life and death matter for residents in Surrey who are being forced to wait longer for improvements. 

Eby, Dix and six of the NDP’s seven MLAs from Surrey had posed for photos with the orange heavy duty vehicle in the lot, which is surrounded by blue fencing and a banner for construction contractor EllisDon. They wore hardhats amid signs emblazoned “under construction” in white letters on a red diagonal bar across a “Surrey H” sign.

When they were in opposition, the NDP criticized then-Premier Christy Clark and Environment Minister Mary Polak for holding a climate leadership plan news conference in August 2016 inside a warehouse, amid artificial greenery and a nature scene on a screen behind them.

Mike Starchuk, the NDP’s Cloverdale MLA, has not responded for comment. Likewise for the communications departments at the Ministry of Health and Fraser Health. 

“I’ve said repeatedly that this is an NDP government of flashy announcements, press releases, staged photos and endless re-announcements. Everything but actual results,” BC United leader Kevin Falcon tweeted. “British Columbians are taking notice of David Eby’s political theatre. They want action, not photo-ops.”

In July of last year, when the NDP government shortlisted PCL Construction Ltd. and EllisDon Design Build Inc., construction was scheduled to begin in summer 2023 and the facility was scheduled to be “ready for patients in 2027” with an estimated capital cost of $1.72 billion. 

Sept. 12 B.C. government photo of the site of the future hospital, where politicians gathered for a photo op. (BC Gov)

However, at the Tuesday photo op, Eby and Dix revealed the hospital is now expected to cost $2.88 billion and not open until 2030. 

That is $1.16 billion more expensive and three years later.

Surrey Board of Trade has campaigned for better services at Surrey Memorial Hospital, which doesn’t have emergency facilities to treat heart attack, stroke or trauma patients. They are transferred elsewhere, mainly to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. 

Doctors held a protest on Saturday outside Surrey city hall about delays and conditions at Surrey Memorial. Dix tried to get ahead of the story with a pre-emptive news conference at the hospital a day earlier, but said that demand for hospital treatment in B.C.’s second-biggest city is outstripping supply and that may be the “new normal.” 

In May, Dix announced B.C. would send as many as 50 cancer patients weekly across the border to clinics in Bellingham, Wash. for radiation treatment under a temporary program. 

On Wednesday, Eby and Starchuk held a “cash for access” party fundraiser in Firehall 1271, the Surrey Firefighters’ union hall, where tickets were being sold for $150. Attendees included former party president Craig Keating, who is now registered to lobby the government for the Cement Association of Canada, B.C. Federation of Labour president Sussanne Skidmore and Nicola Hill, a partner at lobbying firm Earnscliffe Strategies. Hill’s clients include the B.C. General Employees’ Union, MakeWay Charitable Society (formerly Tides Canada), United Way B.C. and North Island-Coast Development Initiative Trust. 

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