The top level of the parkade at Royal Jubilee Hospital will get a barrier to prevent suicides and suicide attempts. According to Island Health, one person has died from a fall off the building since 2009. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Project provides barrier to suicides at hospital parkade

VIHA budgets $650,000 for work at Royal Jubilee Hospital parkade

New measures promise to prevent suicides at the Royal Jubilee Hospital parkade.

Meribeth Burton, a spokesperson for Vancouver Island Health (VIHA), said the organization is installing a barrier on the top level of the Royal Jubilee Hospital parkade to prevent suicides and suicide attempts that lead to self-harm.

“Since 2009, there has been one tragic death as a result of a fall,” she said.

The future height of the parkade with the barrier would be 14.41 metres (not counting the stairwell and elevator shaft). Its current height without the barrier is 12.96 metres. Mesh screens would cover the openings at the lower levels of the parkade as part of the larger upgrades.

Current estimates peg costs at $650,000, with the final cost unavailable until VIHA has tendered the project.

The barrier itself consists of hollow square steel pipes ranging in height from eight feet to nine feet. They would be some 3.5 inches wide and stand about four inches apart.

VIHA plans to start construction this summer when the parkade is less busy.

“We have a number of existing safety measures in place including temporary fencing around the top level, surveillance cameras to monitor activity, increased patrols by Protection Services Officers and signage offering help and support to people who might be in distress,” she said. “The new barrier will be one more safety measure in place to better support patients, staff and visitors.”

The public first heard of the proposal Monday when Saanich council approved a variance for the barrier.

“Members of the general public have gained access to the higher levels of this parkade over the past years, and unfortunately, a few have committed suicide,” said Peter Johannknecht of Cascadia Architects. “So Island Health has taken the initiative to introduce a safety upgrade, which we were proposing here.”

Councillors unanimously approved the requested variance (which still requires final ratification). “If we can save lives through a small variance, this is worth supporting,” said Coun. Colin Plant.

A staff report from Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning, said the proposed guard fence represents a “thoughtful response to an unfortunate need.”

She said that the varying heights of the pipes would give the barrier an “undulating, wave-like pattern.” Their ends would be capped and some pipes would be rotated to create additional interest.

Construction of the parkade was completed in 2000. Saanich at the time granted a variance of 3.4 metres above the permissible height of nine metres.

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