Richmond health centre opening delayed

More money for health care means there will better services for seniors – unfortunately, it has resulted in a delay in opening up the Community Health Access Centre (CHAC) in Richmond’s city centre.

When the province announced extra funding for health care last year, it meant the plans for the facility, which will offer services for frail seniors and adults in the community, home care and home support services, needed to be rejigged, resulting in a year-long delay. But Carole Gillam, director of public health and primary care with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), said this increase in funding means the service parameters will be much improved.

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“This has been the best year in health care in a long time in the community,” she said.

The building at Alderbridge Way and Lansdowne Road was originally leased in March 2018. The second floor was already being used for mental health and substance use services, and so the health authority leased the rest of the building to centralize services for seniors and community care, to create a centralized health care hub.

They then started the planning process for CHAC, but, that spring, the province announced increased funding for health care – for example, bringing home support back under the health authority rather than contracting it out, explained Gillam.

The space would have been too small with the expanded services they were planning, so VCH decided not to include primary care in that building. Rather, they would focus on mental health and seniors, which will now include extra programs to support people with complex medical conditions to remain independent in the community, something Gillam calls a “great initiative” but which requires more staff and resources.

With the expanded operating budget, it took them nine months to plan how the facility would work, and by then, the costs of trades had gone up “significantly” to $7.5 million, up by about $1.5 million from the original cost.

With some revisions, they were able to reduce their budget to $6.3 million and with an $800,000 donation from the Richmond Hospital Foundation, the final budget for the project has come to $7.1 million. This covers planning and getting the infrastructure in place to create an up-to-date space to move health services into with no break in services, Gillam explained.

The request for proposals will be out early this summer and renovations should start in mid August with a move-in date in spring 2020, Gillam said.

The health authority could have moved forward earlier, but after their review, Gillam said they realized it wouldn’t have been in the best interest of Richmond residents.

“Yes, there was a delay, but I think it was an appropriate delay that will have much improved outcomes ­— we’ll be able to serve our population much more effectively,” Gillam said.

Being in one building will centralize services and allow health care teams to collaborate on patient care instead of offering scattered services, delivered piecemeal.

Currently, the health authority offers diverse services but in many different places, and clinical staff don’t talk to each other, Gillam explained.

“Under the CHAC, they’ll be under one roof, and the whole point of it is teams will be situated together, talk to each other and do on-going joint care planning,” she said, adding she hopes there will eventually be one care plan for each person, not several different paper trails.

CHAC will have one phone number for the public to call to describe the service they need, and then they will get a “warm handover,” that is, they’ll be transferred to speak to a person how to get that service.

Gillam said the health authority’s job is to make their services easily accessible for the public.

“We have created all these barriers through different buildings and different areas,’ she said. “Staff need to come together as a team, work cohesively, to support one individual in the care that they need.”


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