COMOX, B.C- Major changes could be coming to the old hospital site in Comox.

On Thursday, Providence Residential and Community Care (PRCC), a new corporate arm created by Catholic healthcare provider Providence Health Care, announced more details on their plans to create a “dementia village” at the St. Joseph’s Hospital site, which currently houses the Views, a 117-bed seniors’ care centre.

PRCC will be taking over ownership of the 17-acre site April 1st, 2019, which includes the Views and the old hospital building, and the company is aiming to create a village based on Dutch practices.

According to the company, that model includes smaller households for residents who share a common bond. The perimeter of the village would be secured using “creative structure and technology”, and it would include a grocery store, pub, and music room for residents and their families.

“The Comox dementia village is only one component of an entire master site plan with specifics to be determined going forward,” read an announcement from the company.

“PRCC will identify those needs through engagement, consultation, and working closely with stakeholders, partners and the community. In addition to the dementia village, there are opportunities to build and provide numerous other services and programs on the campus to meet local, community and regional needs. These services may include more housing solutions, respite care, bathing and meal programs, primary care services, youth services, and Indigenous health services.”

According to Jo-Ann Tait, the corporate director of Senior’s Care and Palliative Services for Providence, engagement with the community on what should happen with the site will begin after the ownership change is completed.

That same engagement will also determine what is built, in what sequence the construction takes place, and the timeline for the whole project.

“In collaboration with the health authority (Island Health) and (provincial) Ministry of Health, that’s going to inform the more detailed components that are integrated into the dementia village concept,” said Tait.

“Once that’s determined, the timeline will be able to be detailed out.”

Tait indicated that the hope is to transfer services to new facilities constructed at the site, and transfer both the current Views residents and the staff that support them into those new facilities as the master plan for the hospital site is finished.

As for what will happen to the existing buildings, Tait indicated that demolition is being planned. However, the buildings that will be knocked down are not known at this time.

“The existing structures, we are quite honoured to support Island Health’s needs, in terms of being able to look at helping to support the local acute care hospital, in terms of creating spaces for resident’s needs,” said Tait.

It’s our hope that we will continue, until the building is required to demolish as part of the bigger master site plan, that we will see what those needs are, and we will do our best to figure out how we can support any services that could be housed in that building for a temporary period of time.”

Tait stated that some buildings will have to be demolished in order to construct the dementia village and other residential buildings.

Everything will depend on the outcome of consultations with Island Health, the provincial health ministry, and the local community, in order to figure out what services are needed at the location.

“Once we determine what those services are, it will determine the sequencing, the timing, the cost, all of those components, including which buildings will stay, and which will go,” said Tait.