Plug pulled on private surgery in Creekside 

Developer gives $1 million to the Whistler Health Care Centre instead

The Mayo Clinic of the North won’t be coming to Creekside now that the developer has decided to drop the contentious private surgery facility from the development project.

"Various factors led to this decision," said John Haibeck, president of the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

"The local medical community did not support the proposed Creekside location and there were uncertainties regarding MSP access and funding."

Instead, the corporation, which had committed to enhancing medical services in Whistler with its development, donated $1 million to the Whistler Health Care Centre to support surgical facilities there.

The decision comes as a blow to Dr. Mark Godley, one the main proponents of the proposed private surgery at the end of Lake Placid Road.

"We are extremely disappointed with the developer’s decision," he said.

"We have been working together for well over a year and have expended considerable funds and energy on this project."

Godley is the medical director of the False Creek Surgical Centre in the Lower Mainland and the Creekside surgery was to have been a satellite centre of the Vancouver site.

"The decision was not taken lightly," said Peter Gordon, a development consultant with the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

He put the decision down in part to bad timing.

The original development proposal called for a state of the art medical centre near the site of the current train station in Creekside. The facility was to offer surgical procedures from gynecology to plastic surgery, in addition to providing sophisticated diagnostic equipment like MRIs and rapid CTIs.

From the very beginning MSP access was critical for the positive outcome of the project.

Godley said the centre would not have gone through in Whistler without the provincial government making changes to the MSP system. This would allow all Canadians access to the surgery.

But while it seems that the provincial government may be moving in that direction, the developer was under time constraints.

"The local community had to have access," said Gordon.

"(But) there came a time when we had to move forward (with the development)."

Another critical aspect to the development of the surgery was support from local doctors. Despite extensive talks and presentations, they were never sold on the idea of a private surgery 10 minutes down the road.

They preferred the idea that all medical services come out of the existing WHCC.

As the project has been planned and discussed for more than a year the corporation felt it had raised the expectations for enhanced medical services in the community. Gordon said the $1million was a gift to mitigate that disappointment.

The donated money may be used to support surgical facilities next to the WHCC.

"From the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s perspective, this is a very generous donation," said Clay Adams, communications director with the VCHA.

But he hastened to add that the money would not influence a decision to implement a whole new range of surgical services in Whistler.

"It does not mean that we will start building a large surgical centre in the future," he said.

Haibeck said the VCHA and local physicians would decide how the $1 million in resources would best be allocated.

At a July 5 meeting with doctors from Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, Surgical Spaces, the parent company of the False Creek Surgical Centre, expressed its willingness to build a surgical centre at the WHCC.

Currently the VCHA is conducting a needs assessment for medical and surgical services in the corridor. The report is expected by November.

Surgical Spaces has agreed to wait for the results of this report before making any final decisions on the nature, scale and location of a new Whistler Surgery Centre.

In Creekside, the physical space that was to have housed the private Whistler surgery is now open for commercial tenants. Gordon said that there are no specific tenants slated to go in there yet.

The Nita Lake Lodge Corporation will also be building a new two-storey train station, complete with a waiting lounge and restaurant.

Haibeck plans to pay for the project by developing 11 single-family lots in 23 nearby forested acres.

There will also be 26 townhouse units on the same property that will be used for employee housing.

In addition to the $1 million, the corporation is donating one employee townhouse unit to the WHCC for their staff.

Gordon said they would be moving forward with the municipality on the development proposal in the next few weeks.


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