British Columbia's busiest emergency room will remain closed for several days following a construction accident that caused major flooding, forcing its evacuation.
A construction crew working on Surrey Memorial Hospital's north lobby expansion project damaged the hospital's primary water main with an excavator around 8 a.m. on Monday, said Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma.
The water then built up for as long as half an hour before bursting through a wall and into the emergency department.
Other affected areas include diagnostic imaging, physical therapy, rehabilitation and dialysis.
Photos and videos from within the hospital showed varying levels of water throughout the property, ranging from a few inches to about two feet.
The water main was temporarily shut down, with an alternate line allowing for limited water use.
Twenty-five patients who were in the emergency room at the time were relocated to other areas within the hospital, said Fraser Health spokeswoman Nasleem Nuraney.
New emergency patients are being taken to other hospitals, including Peace Arch, Royal Columbian and Langley Memorial. All non-essential surgeries have been postponed and those with friends or family at the hospital are asked to postpone their visits.
As of late Monday, 108 elective, non-urgent surgeries had been postponed, Ms. Juma said.
One operating room is functioning and 16 patients in need of emergency surgery "are having their surgeries one after the other."
Paul Naragliano, 74, said Monday he and other patients were transported to another area of the hospital when water started spilling in.
"But the water, after one hour or so, was coming there too. So the nurses were all running around with rags and tried to stop the water and they asked us to go one floor up and we went up."
Mr. Naragliano said he saw about 10 centimetres of water on the floor when patients were being transported out.
"I can walk, and I know what's going on, but some patients needed help," said Mr. Naragliano, who was wearing an oxygen mask as he was hurried out of the ER.
Kutrina Mosch, who was inside the hospital visiting her mother at the time of the flood, said signs were posted on faucets warning people not to drink the tap water.
As well, doctors wore waterproof covers over their regular footwear, Ms. Mosch said.
Fraser Health said a chief medical health officer assessed the water on Monday and found it not to be contaminated – there is mud but not sewage – and therefore it is not considered a health hazard.
Restoration experts say if there are no bacteria detected in the water and there is no damaged insulation within the walls, which could grow mould and/or compromise the structural integrity of the building, a thorough drying and cleaning may be all that is needed to restore the facility.
If there is bacteria or water-damaged insulation present, sections of the wall may have to be cut out and replaced.
As of late Monday afternoon, Fraser Health said experts were still assessing the extent of the damage and necessary clean-up time.
A geophysical survey will also be done on the waterlogged slope where the excavator was.
Surrey Memorial Hospital is home to the busiest emergency room in the province, with nearly 100,000 visits last year. Construction is under way for a $512-million, eight-storey critical care tower that will include a greatly expanded emergency department along with other improvements including larger neurology and intensive care units.
The emergency department is scheduled to open in 2013, with the rest of the tower expected to be complete a year later.
With a report from The Canadian Press