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New psych unit to be built at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix made tha announcement at VJH Friday afternoon
Health Minister Adrian Dix (left), Premier David Eby and Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu were at Vernon Jubilee Hospital Friday afternoon, Feb. 2, to announce that a new psychiatric unit will be built at the hospital. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

B.C. Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced a new in-patient psychiatric unit will be built at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Eby, Dix and Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu made the announcement at the hospital Friday afternoon, and also announced a new primary care network for the North Okanagan as well as 96 new long-term care beds with the expansion of Vernon’s Creekside Landing Community Campus.

Dix said the state-of-the-art psychiatric facility is expected to cost between $110 and $140 million, adding he expects it to open its doors in 2028.

“Our government is committed to improving access to mental-health care and addiction supports around the province, including in Vernon and the North Okanagan,” said Eby. “That’s why we’re committed to building a new in-patient psychiatric unit in Vernon. It will offer safe and dignified care to more people in crisis. This is part of our co-ordinated approach to supporting people who are living with mental-health challenges. It will benefit people in Vernon for many years to come.”

The new psychiatric unit will provide 44 single-occupancy patient rooms, replacing the 30 beds at two existing in-patient psychiatric units located at the hospital, as well as a more modern environment for patients, while meeting the capacity needs of the community. This also includes a new four-bed pediatric psychiatric stabilization unit.

“Increasing access to psychiatric care is critical to the health and well-being of people experiencing mental-health and substance-use issues and supporting their path to mental wellness,” said Dix. “That’s why this project is so important. By continuing to invest in the expansion of mental-health services, we are taking action to help more people get the care they need faster and closer to home in communities like Vernon.”

The project will also integrate the community-based crisis and hospital services team that is spread out across multiple locations in the city. Co-locating the in-patient psychiatric unit and the services team will alleviate travel time between multiple sites for patients, caregivers and health-care providers, resulting in more seamless and efficient delivery of care. The project also includes an 81-stall parking structure on the site.

The new unit is expected to be built on underutilized land adjacent to the hospital and will be connected to the main building via an underground tunnel. Construction is expected to begin in 2026.

The underground tunnel is expected to improve the promptness of psychiatric care at the hospital. According to an Interior Health request for proposals issued in 2021, the hospital’s current layout leaves too long a distance between physicians and psychiatric patients.

Sandhu, who previously worked at the hospital, said she was relieved to finally be able to talk about a project that’s been in the works for several years.

“During my work at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, in community as a registered nurse, and in talking to my health-care colleagues, I have seen first-hand the need for expanded mental health and substance-use services in our communities,” said Sandhu. “The new in-patient psychiatric unit at Vernon Jubilee Hospital will address this need, encourage recruitment of health-care workers, and help so many people in our community get high-quality, patient-centred care. As an advocate for this expansion for many years now, I look forward to watching this project come to life and am grateful that our government is taking action to address the needs of our communities.”

The project is part of the work to expand treatment options for people living with mental-health and substance-use challenges and is a part of the government’s work to address the toxic-drug crisis in B.C. In its 2023 budget, the province invested $1 billion to increase and facilitate access to mental-health and addictions care, including early intervention and prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services, and complex-care housing.

“This investment in expanding psychiatric care at Vernon Jubilee Hospital is great news for the community,” said Diane Shendruk, vice-president of clinical operations with Interior Health North. “As we move forward with planning this project, I know our staff are looking forward to the new modern environment that will better support their work, as well as our patients who access care.”

Jillian Shaw, patient care co-ordinator at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, applauded Interior Health and the province’s commitment to adding more mental health services in Vernon.

“As a psychiatric nurse, I welcome and applaud the commitment of the Province and Interior Health to address the need for additional mental-health services in Vernon,” Shaw said. “Bringing together the crisis and hospital services team will have such a positive impact on both patients and staff, helping contribute to the overall well-being and health of our community. I believe this new psychiatric unit be a valuable contribution to the overall mental-health landscape.”

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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