11/20/2012 13:01 EST | Updated 01/20/2013 05:12 EST

Flooded B.C. emergency room to close for 2 weeks

The emergency department at the Surrey Memorial Hospital will remain closed for at least two weeks because of flood damage caused by a broken water main, the Fraser Health Authority announced Tuesday.

Fraser Health officials have set up a mobile medical unit at the nearby Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre to help handle emergency care.

With the exception of the emergency department and the renal outpatient unit, staff say the rest of hospital is open and functioning. The renal unit is expected to open before the end of the week.

The hospital's water has also been tested and approved for drinking and general use and all elevators are operational, confirmed Fraser Health.

Crews damaged water main

A 20-centimetre water main was damaged around 8 a.m. PT Monday by crews doing excavation work for the hospital's north lobby expansion project.

The water flowed into an open pit for up to half an hour before the pressure of rising water eventually broke through a glass block wall at the back of the emergency room, flooding the department.

The flooding sparked an emergency evacuation, sending 25 emergency room patients to other parts of the hospital.

The hospital and nearby Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre cancelled all elective, scheduled and non-urgent operations — including obstetric, diagnostic imaging and other procedures — until further notice.

Twelve patients were transferred from Surrey Memorial Hospital to other facilities, including eight to Royal Columbian Hospital, one to Langley Memorial and three surgical patients were sent to Vancouver General Hospital.

The Surrey Memorial Hospital operating room was back in service by Monday afternoon and 16 patients in need of emergency procedures were booked for surgery.

So far, 108 elective, non-urgent surgeries have been postponed from Monday and Tuesday's schedule.

The Surrey emergency room is one of the busiest in the country with more than 100,000 visits per year, and extra staff has been called in to manage the improvised plan.

Officials say it is not yet known how much the total damage and restoration work will cost or how long the emergency department will be closed.

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