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High-acuity unit now being built at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital

New unit, along with ICU also under construction, will expand access to critical care
Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s high-acuity unit is now under construction. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Patients at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital will have expanded access to critical care as a new high-acuity unit is now under construction.

The new 12-bed intensive care unit currently under construction is being expanded to include a 12-bed high-acuity unit. Together, the new units will add six new critical care beds.

The ICU is for patients with life-threatening injuries or illnesses, while an HAU requires less resources than an ICU, but provides “more acute care and closer monitoring” than other hospital wards, Island Health said in a press release.

Improvements in the high-acuity unit include: larger single-patient rooms, overhead patient lifts, a medication room, ceiling-mounted service booms and an area for staff to take breaks, a media release noted.

At a press conference Thursday, March 23, Kelly McColm, manager of respiratory therapy at the intensive care and high-acuity units, said the new unit will build on the current one.

“For the new HAU there will be 12 beds with four negative-pressure rooms – these rooms are helpful with pandemic planning for any patients needing critical care in these rooms which could include other health authorities in B.C.,” she said. “The equipment is state-of-the-art and up-to-date, the space is large, so if you need to intubate a patient in the room, you have more space and room to do so.”

The unit’s location close to the emergency department is ideal, according to McColm.

“It would be a little bit shorter for somebody to come journey on over here,” she said. “We’re also close to the operating room, so that matters, because a lot of our patients actually attend the OR, and then they come back to us … post-operatively.”

Dr. Mark James, head of the intensive care unit in Nanaimo, said the new unit will be a “great gain for the community at large,” particularly for the central and north Island. The COVID-19 pandemic, in a sense, laid the groundwork for the high-acuity unit, he said.

“We’ve, at this point, deliberately recruited nursing staff with a critical care background so that we can actually move staff to patients, as opposed to moving patients around a hospital in order to provide optimal care,” he said. “We’ve lived this experiment too, we’ve done this through the COVID times with an HAU environment adjacent to the emergency department, which provided ICU care in an HAU-type environment, so we demonstrated it can work and it can work very effectively.”

The $18.5-million cost of the HAU brings the project’s total price tag to $60.1 million, which will be cost-shared by the provincial government, the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District and the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation.

Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, said the new ICU was much-needed, as the current one was “declared the most dangerous in Canada” and the new HAU will enable better critical care.

“The ICU and the high-acuity unit are critical components of any hospital, providing specialized care for patients with life-threatening conditions … when we have a dedicated HAU, then it does take pressure off the ICU,” said the MLA.

The new intensive care unit will open in June and the high-acuity unit is anticipated to open in September 2024, said Island Health.

READ ALSO: Construction on new ICU at Nanaimo hospital getting started

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Sheila Malcolmson, left, Diane Brennan and Emmy Manson, respective Nanaimo MLA, Island Health board director and Snuneymuxw First Nation councillor, during a photo op at a press conference announcing high-acuity unit construction at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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