10/31/2013 10:49 EDT | Updated 12/31/2013 05:12 EST

BC Nurses' Union says new hospital in Surrey is already too small

VANCOUVER - The president of the BC Nurses' Union says one health authority has built a new emergency room that's just too small, and hospitals across the province are operating 30 per cent over capacity.

In early October, the Fraser Health authority opened Surrey Memorial Hospital's new emergency department that cost more than $500 million.

Fraser Health announced at the time the building had 100 rooms for patients, could process 70,000 medical images annually, and hold six ambulances in a secure garage.

But union president Debra McPherson says the hospital was too small even before it opened, a problem experienced in the Fraser Valley city of Abbotsford where she says some beds are still vacant because of a lack of funding.

Fraser Health says in a statement it has added 1,000 nurses and invested $10 million in specialty nursing education over the past three years.

About 472,000 people currently call Surrey home, but the city predicts that number will jump by more than 300,000 over the next 30 years, and by 2046 one quarter of all Metro Vancouver residents are expected to live there. (CKNW, The Canadian Press)