Downtown Surrey BIA releases report assessing impact of medical school

Project development appears stalled since first announcement in fall 2020

In the run-up to the fall 2020 provincial election, health minister Adrian Dix said the NDP – if elected – would launch the SFU medical school in Surrey. | Shutterstock Image

Downtown Surrey’s main business advocacy group is throwing its full support behind a potential new medical school in that community, releasing a report outlining the possible economic benefits of a new facility.

The Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association (DSBIA) said it commissioned consultancy Roslyn Kunin & Associates to complete the assessment, and the result showed that such a school in downtown Surrey would contribute $159.9 million to the provincial GDP on an annual operational basis – amounting to $3 billion over 20 years and supporting 1,800 jobs.

That number includes direct, indirect and induced GDP impacts of operations once finished, the report said. According to Kunin, the school’s capital costs for getting the facility operational would directly contribute around $864,000 to the GDP and support eight jobs.

Notably, the medical school would also draw out-of-province visitor spending, the report said, generating $127,000 in tax revenue for B.C. for every $1 million of visitor spending.

“Excluding the above qualitative benefits, a Surrey Medical School will produce hundreds of millions of dollars each year and billions of dollars over the life of the facility,” the report concluded, adding that the BIA should make “every effort... to encourage the approval of funding and establishment of an SFU medical school featuring distributed practise in central Surrey.”

The SFU medical school in Surrey has been a major topic in recent years, especially with the province’s need for primary-care physicians under the microscope as COVID-19 swept through B.C. over the last two years.

In the run-up to the fall 2020 provincial election, health minister Adrian Dix said the NDP – if elected – would launch the SFU medical school in Surrey. It would become only the second medical school in B.C., with the province being the only one of its size to have just one such institution.

Dix’s initial announcement said the new medical school would be built on SFU’s Surrey campus, but the project appears to be stalled with few announcements or movements since then.

SFU’s page on the progress of the project remains at “internal community engagement” – only the second in seven steps (with “proposed medical school announced” as the only completed step preceding it). The website noted that “internal community engagement” was completed this spring.

Officials have yet to begin five following steps: External community engagement, analysis of accreditation process, preliminary curricular model, costing analysis and vision for the school itself.

The school, if opened, would be partnered with both Fraser Health and the First Nations Health Authority, according to SFU. Currently, the school says it expects to welcome its first class within four years.

The opposition Liberals have heavily criticized the lack of progress from the NDP government, noting the lack of both progress and information on where the project is at currently.

In a statement, DSBIA CEO Elizabeth Model said it is crucial for the project to go ahead – not only for Surrey itself, but for the province at-large.

“While the focus of the report is on the economics associated with a medical school, we also need to be mindful of the major impact it would have on health outcomes by training more health professionals, creating greater access to primary care and helping to address some of the critical challenges facing our acute care system,” Model said in her statement.