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Island Health Statement on the North Island Hospital Start Up

February 2, 2018
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The North Island Hospital represents a major advancement in the delivery of acute care on the mid and North Island. Island Health opened the Campbell River & District campus on September 10, 2017 and the Comox Valley campus opened October 1, 2017, greatly enhancing the care experience for patients and families.

The many benefits include larger emergency rooms, additional intensive care capacity, dedicated pediatric beds, increased surgical capacity, fixed MRIs, family-centric labour, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, single-patient rooms, enhanced patient privacy, culturally safe care practices, the continued delivery of  transitional care on a 20-bed unit and much more.

Planning, construction and the opening of the North Island Hospital campuses was a huge undertaking. This included changes in technology, equipment, clinical practices and policies, physical locations and staff and user learnings - changes unprecedented in scope at Island Health.

This transition continues to bring many changes for about 1,900 current and new staff and medical staff that have transferred to Island Health from the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital. With the transition come new clinical and administrative processes and new, larger modern facilities built to current health care delivery standards making this one of the largest change initiatives Island Health, our staff and physician partners have been involved in.

Recently, there have been public statements focused on the North Island Hospital Comox Valley campus. While we know there are inaccuracies in some of these statements, we also acknowledge there are truths.  This is a normal part of a change of this magnitude and we want to assure our staff, physician partners, patients, volunteers and the communities that the hospital serves, that we are listening and working very hard to make necessary improvements.

Like any project of this scope, it takes a number of months after opening to settle and fine tune processes as team members familiarize themselves with the new facilities. Since the opening of each campus, Island Health has been working to identify and improve deficiencies and streamline building systems. This is an ongoing process, expected with the opening of any new hospital. Island Health staff and physician partners had similar experiences leading up to and after the opening of the Patient Care Centre in Victoria in 2011.

The North Island Hospital represents the largest transformational change in health care the region it serves has seen in decades. Island Health recognizes that this is a stressful time and that we’re asking a lot of our staff, physician partners and volunteers in order to maintain our focus on those who need and use our services. A staff transition process began in 2015, almost two years before the new hospital opened to assist staff with the changes and challenges involved in moving to, and working in, a new hospital. This process continues to evolve and is largely driven by staff feedback as they continue to become accustomed to the new campuses. We greatly value and appreciate the dedicated people who work and volunteer at the North Island Hospital and we encourage their continued feedback as this journey moves forward.

The North Island Hospital was designed by and for the people who use it. More than 35 user groups involving over 300 people were extensively involved in designing the hospital campuses. These user groups included local physicians and clinical and support staff. Additional design elements came from the Public-Patient Advisory Committee, Aboriginal Working Group and other advisors. The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District was and continues to be a valuable partner in the North Island Hospital and we look forward to continuing this work for many years to come. All of these people were instrumental in shaping these facilities into the state-of-the-art hospital campuses that will serve north and mid-Island residents for decades to come.

This was not a simple process, or one taken lightly. We know that while the North Island Hospital has improved care and care delivery in many ways compared to our previous hospitals, we did not get everything right. We are continually working with our teams to learn and improve. With a project budget of more than $600 million, hospital design involved many tough decisions, balancing health care demands with responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Many initial decisions were made to advance work and planning, followed by the opportunity after move-in to the hospital campuses to re-evaluate those decisions and course correct as required.

Planning for the North Island Hospital campuses applied evidence-based design guidelines and incorporated modern designs proven to have worked in other existing acute care facilities around the world. Both campuses are designed to be elder-friendly, to support culturally safe experiences for patients, their families and our staff and to embrace patient-centered care. We are also committed at the North Island Hospital to make it ‘a great place to work and learn’ for our staff, physicians and also for our many volunteers. 

The North Island Hospital was intentionally built and designed for future expansion and community needs. Combined, the campuses have capacity for 248 inpatient beds. Currently, 95 beds are in use at the Campbell River campus and 129 beds at the Comox Valley campus. The remaining 24 beds were intentionally built for future use.

Like all other Island Health acute care facilities and hospitals across the province, in recent weeks both North Island Hospital campuses have been experiencing increased patient volumes due to seasonal illnesses. This, coupled with patients awaiting placement in long term care facilities, does create staffing and bed challenges. To mitigate these seasonal surges in patient volumes, temporary overflow patient care areas are opened and all patients are cared for in appropriate care spaces and with increased staffing levels. While Island Health acknowledges that this is not always ideal for patients and staff, patients can be assured they will continue to receive the safe, quality care they have come to expect from their health-care professionals.

The Comox Valley campus has been experiencing high patient volumes in recent weeks due to seasonal illness, and we know this has been challenging for staff and medical staff. From mid October 2017 through the end of January 2018, average occupancy was 110% based on 129 beds.

Island Health recognizes that additional long term care capacity is needed in the Comox Valley. Work is underway to issue a Request for Proposals and we anticipate this will move forward within the next few weeks. This new capacity will help meet the needs of the community. Island Health also recognizes that it will take approximately two years to open this new capacity once the RFP process and design is completed. In the interim, Island Health is adding resources in the community to better support people to live in their own homes longer – last year home care visits totaled 38,306 and we are projecting an increase of more than 1,800 home care visits this year. Home support hours will also increase this year and have increased by 22% over the last four years. Last fiscal year, adult day programs in the Comox Valley delivered 4,075 client days and by the end of the current fiscal year, adult day program client days will total about 4,275.
 
While there is still much work to be done, the benefits of the North Island Hospital are already improving the health care experience for mid and North Island patients and families. The increased focus on patient-centered care, enhanced privacy, new technology and capacity will better serve this region for decades to come.

It is important to note that these remarkable hospital campuses belong to the people of British Columbia through the Province of BC. Island Health is proud to operate the North Island Hospital.