It was a year for big changes in health care in Langley – though the full impact of the three biggest won’t be felt in full until 2021.
Construction on the new emergency room at Langley Memorial Hospital began in 2019 and hit high gear in 2020.
The groundbreaking took place in April, 2019, kicking off the construction of a $45 million project and the biggest single expansion of Langley Memorial since the 1990s.
Millions of dollars had been fundraised by locals, including some six- and seven-figure donations from locals. The $15 million campaign was the largest ever by the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation, and it more than met its goal.
The expanded ER will increase the number of treatment spaces to 49 from 31, while also creating a dedicated pediatric waiting area for children.
A new ambulance bay is to be installed.
Doctors and nurses have been eagerly awaiting the expansion, as much of Langley’s ER was cramped, in a part of the building that was decades old and far out of synch with modern needs of a community of Langley’s size.
Main framing of the ER was complete by February, and the building’s exterior quickly took shape after that.
At the same time, the parking lots were being reshaped around the new extension.
The total number of parking spots in the lots is to be reduced somewhat, and driveways and entrances are being rebuilt and redirected.
Those visiting the hospital early in the year had to adjust to the fact that construction meant that the hospital entrance might not be in the same place, as it had to move to accommodate construction.
At the start of the year, it had been hoped that the new ER would be open around now – the end of 2020.
That deadline wasn’t quite met, but the ER is close to completed.
On Monday, Dec. 7 the completed MRI got its first “test patients” and then doctors and technicians immediately began using it for real scans on local patients.
“It’s just really exciting for our donors, who made this happen,” said Heather Scott, executive director of the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation.
“This is going to make an incredible difference for people,” Scott said.
The magnet for the MRI Suite arrived at the hospital in September and was carefully lowered into place through a hole in the building.
The new MRI project was budgeted at $8.75 million, with $4.75 million from Fraser Health and $4 million from the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation.
The new machine, first announced in 2018, will be able to perform 7,500 MRI exams annually.
An MRI allows for scans that are more precise than an X-ray or a CT scan, including scans of spinal columns and brains.
The new machine is also expected to help reduce wait times for patients in Fraser Health, and allow local residents and patients at Langley Memorial to save the time and difficulty of being transported to Peace Arch Hospital when they need an MRI.
In a year often focused on the tragedy and deaths related to the COVID-19 outbreak and the opioid epidemic, the Langley organization focused on aiding the dying and their families had both obstacles to overcome, and major milestones.
Grief and isolation are often companions, which is why the Langley Hospice Society had to adjust quickly in March to do its work.
At the hospice residence itself, on the grounds of Langley Memorial Hospital, volunteers could no longer go into the building early on during the first lockdowns.
“I struggle so much with not being able to be there,” Fernande Ouelette, the society’s palliative program co-ordinator, told the Langley Advance Times in April.
The hospice turned to online and distanced methods of reaching out to those dealing with grief and dying, continuing with its mandate.
This year, to serve the needs of a growing Langley, the Hospice Society embarked on a long-planned project to build a new, free-standing hospice building on the grounds of Langley Memorial Hospital.
The groundbreaking was announced in August and construction work continued into the fall and winter.
“With preload finished, the crew has been busy,” said Carissa Halley, executive director of the Langley Hospice Society. “The retaining wall is now complete, the footings have been poured on the west side, and now other site services will be completed and we will see the concrete slabs and framing begin in the upcoming weeks.”
The 15-bed residence will have space for patients and their families, including private rooms for patients, a dedicated sanctuary, and family kitchen, laundry and washroom.
Each year the existing 10-bed facility provides care for about 238 patients. The new facility is expected to allow for the care of about 350 people per year.