The BC Liberals and NDP squared off at Richmond Hospital on Saturday, over plans to build a new acute care tower.
Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson criticized the delay in construction on the tower under the NDP government during a press conference at the hospital, joined by his four Richmond candidates, Teresa Wat (Richmond North Centre), Matt Pitcairn (Richmond-Steveston), Alexa Loo (Richmond South Centre) and Jas Johal (Richmond-Queensborough).
“This hospital was approved by the BC Liberals in 2016. It was then handed to the NDP in 2017 when they took office, and they have accomplished nothing,” Wilkinson said.
“It's not in their budgets, it's not in their platform, yet they had the gall to come out here last week and say yet again, they support Richmond Hospital. Where's the proof they support the Richmond Hospital?”
Wilkinson promised to build the new acute care tower if elected, and that the project would form a core part of his party’s infrastructure plan upon taking office.
“This is a hospital tower that needs to be built. (Richmond is) a growing community, and we’re committed to getting it built,” he said.
The plan is for over 200 beds of acute care services – some of which will be replacing old beds, according to Wilkinson.
He said that the plan for the new tower is “essentially the same” as the NDP’s, however, “we will actually get this done.”
NDP candidate and former minister of health, Adrian Dix – who also held a press conference at the hospital – defended his party’s plan, and argued that the Liberals had 16 years to revamp Richmond Hospital.
“The people of Richmond have waited a long time and we are moving forward with a hospital project everyone can be proud of.”
He said that Wilkinson was effectively endorsing the New Democrat’s health record in Richmond.
Dix was joined by Richmond candidates Kelly Greene (Richmond-Steveston), Aman Singh (Richmond-Queensborough) and Henry Yao (Richmond South Centre).
The hospital should have been built 10 years ago, Dix told the Richmond News, and the NDP government began from a “standing start” when they came to power in 2017.
“I think what we’ve done, is not just build the tower which was in the proposal, but essentially transforming it into the hospital that will be there for us for 30, 40, 50 years. It's a great plan,” said Dix.
“They (the Liberals) didn't deliver it, and now we are.”
In July, the NDP announced the new nine-floor tower – expected to be completed by 2024 – would be larger than first envisioned, with several hundred million dollars added to the original budget.
According to that announcement, the emergency department will be twice its current size and include an intensive care unit, medical imaging department and pharmacy. The new tower will also include expanded pediatric and mental-health services.
The business case and final budget were supposed to be announced in September – but then the election was called.
While the final budget has yet to be announced, Dix told the News the money was included in the 10-year capital plan.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said work on the business plan continues “at the expected pace, and it will be subject to approval by (the) treasury board and the new cabinet following the election.”
Meanwhile, Dix told the News that he expects to be back in Richmond “not within months, (but) within weeks of the election being held,” regarding the hospital, if the NDP is re-elected. Jaeden Dela Torre, NDP candidate for Richmond North Centre, said they are expecting shovels in the ground by the end of 2021.
- With files from Maria Rantanen