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B.C.’s premier, John Horgan, announced Thursday that a planned new hospital tower for Richmond will be bigger then first planned, and with 220 beds, bringing the total beds for the hospital to 350.

Horgan said the COVID-19 crisis has shown how important it is to have a strong publicly-funded health care system.

Dr. Richard Chan, an emergency room doctor at Richmond Hospital, said the hospital has seen a 40 per cent increase to the emergency room in the past 10 years. Richmond Hospital often operates at over 100 per cent capacity, and sees around 60,000 patients a year, Chan said.

The expansion plan will add 110 new beds to the hospital's current capacity of 240 beds.

The B.C. government first announced the new hospital tower in March 2018, saying the existing acute care facility was built in the 1960s and is now out of date. In that time, hospital staff and the health ministry have been planning the hospital, Horgan said.

The new addition to Richmond Hospital will include a new emergency room, a new medical imaging centre, as well as other health services.

Horgan said the expanded tower will increase costs by “hundreds of millions,” and the final business plan and cost estimate will be completed by the end of September. He acknowledged that the construction will disrupt some existing health services at the hospital.

The new tower is slated to be completed by 2024.