News / Vancouver

St. Paul’s Hospital $3.5M centre for vulnerable patients set to open spring 2017

The new centre, called HUB, will treat 6,000 mental health and substance-use patients

St. Paul’s Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Bill MacEwan stands in the hospital’s courtyard where one of HUB’s modular units will sit when it opens spring 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

St. Paul’s Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Bill MacEwan stands in the hospital’s courtyard where one of HUB’s modular units will sit when it opens spring 2017.

A $3.5-million addition to St. Paul’s emergency department, geared toward mental health and drug-addicted patients, is set to open this spring in the midst of B.C.’s fentanyl crisis.

The downtown Vancouver hospital treats the largest number of vulnerable patients – almost 11,000 – every year.

The new centre, which will be called HUB, aims to provide acute care to vulnerable patients quicker and connect them with medical and social resources after they are discharged from emergency.

“We see the HUB as being part of the continuum [of care],” said Dr. Bill MacEwan, a psychiatrist at St. Paul Hospital.

“We’re just trying to make the most of everybody we’re touching because so often, emergency visits can be seen to be like ‘god, I waited a long time and they didn’t do much.’”

What is HUB?

  • Up to 10 new beds for acute care
  • A transitional centre with up to 12 beds for discharged patients to connect them with housing and further treatment
  • The Rapid Access Addiction Clinic that streamlines opioid-addiction patients from the emergency department to opioid substitution therapy

The idea and initial funding for HUB came from the Vancouver Police Department, because officers were spending more than an hour with mental health patients before a doctor could see them, said MacEwan. 

He describes St. Paul’s current emergency room as a “crowded, bedlam-style” place where officers frequently assist people with psychosis issues.

“We have a very busy emerge[ncy department],” he said.

“The Vancouver Police and the Foundation have been great in terms of stimulating this and great partners for mental health.”

What can HUB do?

  • Reduce averabe wait times for patients, and the police officers who accompany them, from 75 to 20 minutes.
  • Make room for other emergency patients by taking in 6,000 vulnerable patients

An anonymous donor gave $750,000 to the Vancouver Police Foundation specifically for mental-health and substance-use patient care in 2015.

That was a catalyst for other partners to jump in with their own donations, including Vancouver Coastal Health ($3 million), the City of Vancouver ($1 million), and St. Paul’s Foundation ($1.7 million).

That money will pay for the construction and operation of a pair of 54-feet long, 34-feet wide modular units that will sit in the hospital’s two courtyards. Both will be connected to the main building.

HUB is both a temporary solution and a research project for the hospital as it prepares to move to a new site in False Creek Flats, said MacEwan.

“This is an interim measure we’re doing because the hospital will hopefully moving in a few years. But we can’t wait.”

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