The views from the rooftop of Langley Memorial Hospital were spectacular on a sunny Friday morning — looking out over snowcapped mountains to the north and, closer in, at the construction, newly underway, on the brand new Vandekerkhove Family Maternity Centre at LMH.
But it was Vanessa Vandekerkhove, a brand new mother and member of the Langley family after whom the maternity unit will be named, who stole the show as politicians, hospital staff, auxiliary members and donors gathered at the hospital on Feb. 15 to celebrate the start of the long-awaited expansion.
Vandekerkhove, who spent 13 hours in labour before delivering her now five-week-old daughter, Adrianna, offered her thanks to the maternity nurses who made her feel safe and secure, as well as to the doctors who attended her throughout her stay.
“It was such a great experience, I can’t wait to pop out a whole bunch more,” she exclaimed, causing her audience to burst into peals of laughter.
“I feel very privileged to have had (Adrianna) at Langley Memorial Hospital.”
Vandekerkhove also told the gathering that she felt lucky there was, in fact, a bed available for her when it came time to give birth to her daughter.
The $6.5 million expansion addresses a long-term shortage of maternity beds in the hospital. The number of births each year at the LMH has risen dramatically, from 85 in 1948 — when the hospital opened — to 1,800 births in 2010. During that same period, however, only two beds were added to the ward, bringing the current total to 13.
By 2020, it is expected that more than 2,300 infants will be born at LMH each year.
Construction, which will see another floor added to an existing wing of the hospital, is expected to be complete late this year. At that time, four of the seven new beds — all of which will be in private rooms — will open, with the remaining three scheduled to open in 2015.
“It really means we will have the capacity to serve 600 additional births per year. That’s significant,” said David Portesi, speaking on behalf of the hospital.
Other planned improvements include the relocation of the maternity clinic to a space next to the maternity unit, for better continuity of care. As well, there will be a dedicated post-anesthetic recovery unit, renovated and expanded nursery, additional on-call rooms and multipurpose space.
As of Friday, the hospital’s “It All Starts Here” fundraising campaign had surpassed the halfway mark of its commitment to raise $5.35 million, announced LMH Foundation Board chair Rick McMullan.
In addition to a $1 million donation from the Vandekerkhoves — well known for their family business, the Super Save Group of Companies — McMullan noted the Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has pledged $500,000 to the project.
“The work that they do is incredible,” he said.
He also acknowledged contributions from the LMH Foundation Board’s own campaign, hospital physicians and staff, local businesses, including Langley Concrete Group and Teck Construction, as well as from RBC and BMO Financial Groups and a private donation from Rebecca Darnell.
The Fraser Health Authority, meanwhile, is contributing $1.15 million to the project, as well as an additional $5.5 million for various infrastructure projects, required to support the expansion and to fund its ongoing operational costs. Altogether, the expansion is valued at more than $11.6 million.
Projects of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without such co-operation, said Langley MLA Mary Polak.
“This is a celebration of something that is going to be so beneficial to the community and the partnerships that make it possible,” she said.
“It’s welcome news … for the entire community.”