It will be several days at least before Surrey Memorial Hospital’s closed emergency department can re-open after a water line break flooded it under several inches of water.
Crews are mopping up but officials say it quickly became clear the cleanup and assessment of equipment and systems for damage won’t be done overnight.
The water main breach happened just before 9 a.m. Monday when the line was hit by an excavator operated by a sub-contractor helping build SMH’s new emergency department and critical care tower.
The ruptured eight-inch main sent water flowing into the open pit at the north lobby expansion construction site for 30 minutes until rising water pressure burst through a glass block wall at the back of the ER.
The sudden deluge, caught on video, sent staff and patients scrambling to get out.
Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said 25 patients in the ER at the time were relocated to other parts of the hospital.
Although the ER is closed – and there’s no time estimate yet for it to reopen – the rest of the hospital remains open.
Ambulance paramedics are taking patients to other nearby hospitals and patients who make their own way to the SMH ER are being triaged in the parkade near the ambulance bay.
That triage point will move to the nearby Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre once a 40-bed temporary emergency department is set up there to handle incoming ER patients.
The region’s Mobile Medical Unit will be set up at the outpatient centre by Tuesday to support patient care as needed.
“We are encouraging people to go to another hospital if possible,” Juma said, listing Peace Arch, Royal Columbian and Langley Memorial as alternates for non-urgent cases.
“If this hospital is the one that’s closest they can come here and we will take care of them.”
Fraser Health’s Roy Thorpe confirmed the diversion of patients is putting extra pressure on surrounding hospitals.
All elective, scheduled and non-urgent surgeries at SMH have also been postponed, including cataract surgery, obstetrical procedures and diagnostic imaging.
Most of the flooding was in the ER but the medical imaging department also on the hospital’s first floor was also affected, as well as physiotherapy, rehab and dialysis areas.
Juma had no estimate yet of the cost of damage from the flood or reports of damage to the hospital’s equipment.
The broken line was regular water not a sewer line and the region’s medical health officer concluded there is no risk of contamination.
No patients were injured, although a hospital staffer is believed to have been hurt after slipping and falling.
Hospital visitors are urged to postpone their visit if they don’t have to come to SMH.
Both King George Boulevard and 96 Avenue were closed Monday morning but have since been reopened.
Water service to the hospital was shut off but has since been reconnected via an alternate line.
All operating rooms were initially closed over concern about water and power supply, but one OR is now serving 16 patients in need of emergency surgery.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, 12 patients were transferred from SMH to other hospitals, with eight of them going to Royal Columbian.
Water pressure is uncertain so water is being rationed and temporary drinking water stations are being brought in to patient areas.
Photos below by Evan Seal / Surrey Leader