Peace Arch Hospital: In A Growing Changing Community Meet Foundation Director Harp Hoonjan – by Ray Hudson

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Harp Hoonjan - Foundation Director
Harp Hoonjan - Foundation Director
Harp Hoonjan – Foundation Director

Surrey: Peace Arch Hospital, originally called the White Rock and District Hospital, has been serving White Rock and South Surrey since it opened its doors in 1954. As with all such medical facilities in the region, it’s staffed and operated by Fraser Health, one of BC’s six health authorities. It is then the task of the hospital foundation, whose mission is to “raise funds and awareness to enhance the health and wellness of our community. Our passionate and caring team’s number one priority is the prudent stewardship of your gifts and the resulting positive impact on patients and medical staff at Peace Arch Hospital and the entire White Rock/South Surrey community.”
Ten dedicated community members participate on the foundation’s Board of Directors. In our first report on the new developments at Peace Arch Hospital, we spoke with Art Reitmayer, Chair of that Board. In the second installment, Ray Hudson talked with Director, Harp Hoonjan, where his background as a Civil Engineering Technologist and twenty-five years experience in construction and development serve him well as Chair of the Properties committee and member of the Residential Care Task Force.
He pointed to two projects with Charan Gill and PICS developing their senior’s housing project at 75th Avenue and Scott Road. As the project manager he assisted in the purchase of the property and getting the development through BC Housing and other agencies. This led to his involvement with the second project in assisted living. Along with many other commercial projects he had just completed a 136 thousand square foot, $60 million campus plan for Collingwood School in West Vancouver.

Hudson: What motivated you to become involved in the foundation?
Hoonjan: As businessmen we do our work; we raise our children. But I reached a point in my life where I needed to give back. Several years ago some folks on the board said they wanted someone of my background and business aptitude to fill out the board. As well, my sense is it was also likely because I’m South Asian. I had some interviews with members of the board, and was told I would be a great fit. This is my community, where I make my home, where my kids make their home, and this is where we intend on keeping our home. So it’s really important for me that I be on the board to look after the interests of the community.

Hudson: When you joined the board, what projects interested you the most?
Hoonjan: The first thing was the Emergency Department (ER) expansion, the second thing was the two-hundred-unit Care project. I speak the language of development and construction which was one of the strengths the board was seeking when they approached me. There’s a myriad of high-level questions that need to be asked and without the knowledge of the industry, it would be like me asking medical questions without medical knowledge. Sitting on the Residential Care Task Force is a good fit. I can make sure that everything keeps moving systematically and without any hiccups.
This has also led me to chair the property committee, looking at the lands around the hospital for their highest and best use, and how we are going to capitalize on those down the road. We also look for other properties around the neighbourhood that Boards ten, fifteen or twenty years down the road, will be happy to have.

Hudson: This project incorporates a hospice as well, which is really necessary for a hospital such as this.
Hoonjan: My sense is that it’s level of progression to keep the acute care beds for acute patients, while the longer-term patients have the next and most appropriate level of care available in these two hundred residential care beds. If we can’t move those patients from the ER up into the acute care beds, what’s the point of an expanded ER? So we tied the projects together and that’s the way we finally got the approval from Fraser Health.

Hudson: All you have to do is look at the current and future development around Grandview Heights and White Rock to see that there will be enormous, and changing demands on this hospital.
Hoonjan: The demographic change has gone from elderly retired, to younger middle class people with kids, as well as a growing ethnic mix. So now the hospital staff are seeing a different mix of patients than in previous years.
I can tell you twelve years ago there were very few from the South Asian community. That shift has occurred over the last seven or eight years, and even more over the last five. People from that community are excited about South Surrey now. They’re not just stuck to Newton or Panorama Ridge anymore. Also the Asian and Chinese populations are growing here as well. And as the community changes it is becoming very affluent and with that affluence comes a desire by others to live in areas that reflect that. South Surrey really is an affluent community.
Now the younger people, and my kids are twenty-one, twenty-three and twenty-four, probably prefer to be downtown in Vancouver. But eventually there will be a turnaround, they’ll want to be back and that’s evident in that we’re getting a lot of kids in the hospital now.

Residential facility
A lot of people ask why I’m raising funds for the foundation when the hospital is operated by the government. In the beginning I had to wrap my head around that, but it’s these foundations that actually engage the community, and if it was always funded just by government, you’d never really know what was going on and what was being done. When it’s the foundation and the auxiliary at this hospital working together, we try to engage the community by saying that the foundation is doing this project we’re putting in this much money, and the government is helping in this way, overall it’ll raise the level of understanding that it’s going to benefit everybody. One the biggest jobs, as a board, is to keep that awareness in front of people or they’ll just assume the government does it all.
Next week, we’ll meet two key medical people involved in the redesign of the ER expansion. For more information on the projects at Peace Arch Hospital and the foundation go to www.pahfoundation.ca