High acuity unit construction underway at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital

People living in Nanaimo and area will have greater access to critical care as the new 12-bed intensive care unit (ICU) currently under construction at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) has been expanded to include a new 12-bed high acuity unit (HAU), an increase of six net new beds overall.

An ICU cares for patients with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. An HAU provides patients with more acute care and closer monitoring than a general hospital ward but requires less resources than an ICU. 

“We know that demand for health care, in particular from those with complex care needs, is growing, and growing rapidly in our province,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Expanding the scope of the ICU redevelopment at NRGH by adding the new HAU will make it easier to move patients between the two units so people can get the care they need quickly.”  

The new HAU will replace the current, temporary eight-bed HAU and will include 12 HAU beds (three pods with four beds per pod), a nurse station and support spaces including a medication room, clean and soiled utility room, linen alcove, nourishment centre, family consult room and washroom.

“The temporary HAU at NRGH was integral to Island Health’s COVID-19 response,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair. “The new, permanent HAU will increase capacity and be equipped to provide patients with higher level, dedicated, specialized care that will help save lives and support the complex care needs of our population.”

In the event that there is an influx of patients requiring ICU-level care, the new HAU is equipped to support these patients and provide the same level of monitoring and care as the ICU.

“More people will get better access to critical care at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, with our new intensive care unit and this new expanded high acuity unit,” said Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo. “Thanks to our partners, the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation and the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District, and to the health-care workers and patients who let me know this new investment is so important.”

Construction on the ICU, which will include updated medical technology to offer improved care for critically ill patients, began in February 2021. 

The HAU will include improvements such as larger single patient rooms, ceiling-mounted service booms and overhead patient lifts, a medication room, a family consult room, and a staff break room and rest area. It will be located south of the current emergency department.

The current 10-bed ICU, built in 1970, is outdated in its space and functionality. Once a formal request was received from Island Health in October 2017, the Ministry of Health moved forward with planning, approval and now construction to ensure residents have access to a facility that will provide enhanced care.

“Nanaimo is one of the fastest growing areas on Vancouver Island and we need to ensure that services are expanding to meet the increased demands,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. “A new HAU, along with the new ICU currently under construction, will help ensure people with critical and acute conditions in the Nanaimo area can receive the care they need, when they need it. Thank you to our partners at Island Health and local officials for being strong advocates for increased health services.”

With the added cost of $18.5 million for the HAU, the total project cost is now $60.1 million, which will be shared between the provincial government through Island Health, the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District, and the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation. 

“The mid-island community rose to the challenge to support a new ICU,” said Barney Ellis, CEO and President, Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation. “It’s in their nature to give and they rallied together raising over $5 million to equip it. Our communities know we all need to pull together to further improve our hospital with the addition of a new ICU and HAU. This is a milestone for our hospital and a great advancement for health care in our region.”

“Learning that a permanent 12-bed high acuity unit will be part of the new intensive care unit currently under construction at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is excellent news for our region and an important addition to enhance patient care for our residents,” said Ian Thorpe, Chair, Nanaimo Regional Hospital District. “The addition of this unit was one of five major areas of focus for our Board and we are pleased to help fund this with the Province of BC.”

“The expansion of the NRGH ICU redevelopment is exciting news for everyone living in the rapidly growing mid-island region,” said Adam Walker, MLA for Parksville–Qualicum. “The addition of 12 high-acuity beds will expand hospital capacity and ensure people have access to appropriate care when they need it most.” 

The project will create approximately 200 jobs and 100 indirect jobs. The new ICU is expected to be open for patients in June 2023 and the HAU has a targeted opening date of September 2024.