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Vancouver activist pushes St. Paul's 'renewal'

2011 power outage prompted $1 million emergency funding

Brent Granby is trying to keep patient about buildings he hopes someday will be built for patients.

With almost 11 months until the provincial election, Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Health Mike de Jong announced Wednesday that business and concept plans would be done by 2014 on how to pay to rebuild the aging Burrard Street campus and keep the hospital open during construction.

Weve been advocating for a renewal of the hospital since 2002, but better late than never, said Granby, vice-chair of the Save St. Pauls Coalition.

Operator Providence Health Care began exploring other sites in 2002 but community pressure by Granby and others in 2010 cancelled a proposed move to a site north of Pacific Central Station. Providence already submitted a 190-page concept plan in February 2011 to the health ministry for a six-year, $450 million to $610 million replacement. The facilities have suffered electrical failures and broken elevators and are at risk of major earthquake damage.

St. Pauls, the biggest of Providences facilities, got $1 million in emergency funds after a February 2011 power outage. Another $12.5 million for electrical upgrades and $4.7 million for the elevator system were announced last September.

Clarks announcement came a day after de Jongs news conference at Royal Columbian Hospital to talk about a potential five-year, $750-million renovation of the New Westminster hospital. That project also hinges on a business plan.

Vancouver-West End NPD MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert said both announcements were more about the Liberals trying to save their own political skin. Downtown is no closer to a better hospital, he said.

Clark claimed there is $500 million already set aside for St. Pauls. The health ministry service plan shows $1.71 billion for capital grants for health facilities and $579.8 million for executive and support services capital spending for 2011-2012 to 2014-2015. There is no mention of St. Pauls in the service plan. Providence had a $2.05 million surplus on a $728.2 million operating budget in 2010-2011.

The Vancouver Esperanza Society, including onetime Providence chairman Kip Woodward, bought the Station Street site in 2004 for a potential $24.8 million sale to Providence and the government has paid the annual $800,000 property tax bill. The site was once eyed by Vancouver Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot for a soccer stadium. It was a VANOC bus and delivery truck screening and parking area during the 2010 Winter Olympics. B.C. Pavilion Corporation used it to store equipment and materials for the B.C. Place Stadium renovation.

Health ministry spokesman Ryan Jabs said Esperanza continues to hold the property as an investment for potential future government use.

He said the tax payments are because of the unique location and size.

At this point in time, we have not made any decisions about the future of the Station Street land, and it is too early to speculate on its potential future use, Jabs said.

Twitter: @bobmackin

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