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$25M powers tower of hope

By Don Fennell

Published 12:52 PDT, Thu June 22, 2017

Richmond doctor and nurse lead $25 million contribution Record donation illuminates need for new acute care tower New tower could cost $200M to $400M

Throughout their careers in medicine, Tony and Nancy Yurkovich dedicated their lives to serving others. Even now, in retirement, that hasn’t changed.

The long-time Richmond doctor and nurse recently made the single largest gift in the history of the Richmond Hospital Foundation in support of a new acute care tower. Notably modest and humble, the couple preferred details of the size of their gift not be shared but are thrilled that more than 10 families and organizations have made commitments totalling $25 million toward the proposed new building.

In recognition of the Yurkovich’s generosity, the original tower (the longtime Richmond couple was present for its official opening in 1966) will be named the Yurkovich Family Pavilion. In the future, when a new tower is approved by the provincial government, the naming will transfer to it.

“I love this community. I feel great joy in giving,” Dr. Yurkovich said in a press release.

Added Nancy: “Back then we wanted the very best health care for the people of Richmond. We still want the same thing today, and that’s what a new acute care tower will mean for us.”

Dr. Yurkovich was dedicated to caring for Richmond residents for more than four decades. The first generation Canadian, whose determined mother spoke only Croatian for much of her life, he worked in the shingle mills and canneries to pay for his medical education at the University of British Columbia.

Nancy, born in Toronto, met her future husband working in the same hospital. The couple settled in Richmond where they raised a family.

“Tony and Nancy have always been great advocates of having the best health care possible in this community,” said Natalie Meixner, president and chief executive officer of the Richmond Hospital Foundation. “They have a deep understanding of what the needs are, having been a part of health care in this city but also in the country for many years. In fact it was 60 years ago this month Tony opened his family practice in Richmond.”

Retired for 20 years, the couple continues to champion for the best health care possible in all aspects—mental health to palliative care to home care, “making sure the right kinds of services are there for people,” Meixner said.

“When they decided to make this gift it was about wanting to help bring this need (for a new acute care tower) to fruition,” she said. “(They thought) if people saw they chose to support this perhaps others would be inspired by their act and do the same.”

Meixner said the need for a new tower is urgent, and she hopes that with each donation the community awareness and support increases.

“Our MLAs have been championing this need but clearly it takes a lot of loud voices, it takes a whole community to let government know this is the single, most important infrastructure to people in Richmond,” she said.

When the original—and current—tower was constructed in 1966, Richmond’s population was 50,000. Today the population is 218,000 and projected to grow to 250,000 by 2030. While the delivery of health care services has changed, there still remains only “a couple hundred beds,” Meixner said.

The limited space means up to four people typically share a patient room, each equipped with only one washroom. Today, to prevent infection, facilitate faster recovery and offer the best standard of care, the common practice in health care is one patient per room, Meixner said.

“The building is also seismically unstable and in case of a moderate earthquake subject to liquefaction,” she said. “Back when it was built, seismic standards were different and there was no preloading of the site.“

Since the provincial government approved the first phase of planning in June 2016, the initial concept plan was completed. Now in the hands of the Health Ministry for review and possible recommendations, Meixner said. “Our hope is it will be approved and can then go to the business plan stage. We’re told that (business plan stage) normally takes two years. It’s pretty in-depth work.”

Meixner said the cost of replacing the existing tower is wide-ranging, with estimates from $200 million to $400 million depending on the scope of the project.

Richmond residents have the longest average lifespan at 85 years of age compared to the national average of 81, pressing Richmond Hospital to provide acute care services for patients and families who need it.

Over 30 years, Richmond Hospital Foundation has raised nearly $75 million to help purchase vital medical equipment, improve patient care services and upgrade facilities at Richmond Hospital.

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