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Surgery wait times at VGH to be reduced, thanks in part to $25 million donation

Tom Gaglardi, owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announces a $25-million donation to the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the largest in the foundation’s history.
Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi (third from left) was at VGH Wednesday to announce a $25- million donation from his family towards 16 new surgical rooms and a 40-bed unit for post-surgery care. Photo Saša Lakić

Christmas came early for the Vancouver General Hospital Wednesday morning when Tom Gaglardi, owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced a $25-million donation to the Vancouver General Hospital & UBC Hospital Foundation, the largest in the foundation's history.

Barbara Grantham, president and CEO of the foundation, says the donation will be part of a larger construction project to build 16 new surgical rooms and a 40-bed unit for post-surgery care totaling $145 million. The project is meant to cut down on hospital wait times by moving some of the “higher volume, lower acuity” surgeries to UBC, while VGH will focus on more complex procedures such organ transplants and trauma treatments. Grantham also said the foundation will provide $60 million, while the provincial government will provide the rest.

“If you are scheduled for your knee replacement or your hip replacement today, you are not going to be bumped here [at VGH] by an urgent case that comes in overnight,” Grantham explained. “Our goal is that the combination of those two things will bring down the wait times and use each of our two sites in a much more efficient and effective way.”

According to a 2016 study by the Fraser Institute, which has been tracking hospital wait times for surgeries since 1993, the median time for Canadians wait for surgery is 20 weeks, which the longest measure to date. In British Columbia, the median wait time from when patients see their doctor to getting into the operating room is 25.2 weeks. For knee and hip replacements, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks Canada among the lowest performers across Western countries.

Dr. Richard Cook, a VGH cardiac surgeon who was part of the roughly 120 spectators in the cathedral Diamond Court, welcomed the donation and said the hospital tends to the sickest patients in the province who need quality care.

“Our operating rooms are okay, but we need operating rooms that are better and bigger, that have all the new technology, and we need more of them because we are doing more work,” Dr. Cook said. “This is going to allow us to increase our capacity.”

Gaglardi, who’s also a real estate developer and owns several restaurant chains, reminisced about his grandfather Phil Gaglardi, former B.C. Minister of Public Works and later Highways. He told the audience the “selfless legacy” of his grandparents —after whom the new surgical centre at the Jim Pattison Pavillion will be named —inspired the family to donate. He said it had been a long-time conversation with his father, the hospital and the foundation, and years in the making.

“The situation here is pretty antiquated, so this will bring us up to modern times,” Gaglardi said. “When we heard about the opportunity, we thought everything just lined up with what we wanted to see, and we are just happy to be able to be part of it.”