(l to r) Vivian Eliopoulos, Mary Heim, Craig Thompson, Chris Linden and Kip Woodward tour the VGH tunnel.

Out of sight, not out of mind

Deep underground stretches a series of corridors linking all corners of the VGH campus from the Diamond Health Care Centre to Heather Pavilion and even the BC Cancer Agency. While many VCH staff never set foot in the VGH tunnel, it’s a vital artery that keeps supplies, equipment and people (including patients) flowing throughout the hospital 24/7 and for over 730 people, it’s where they work day in and day out.

Work is currently underway to transform the tunnel into a more vibrant space, made up of colour-coded stations with updated signage and maps for improved wayfinding. Initiatives include enhancements to lighting, infection control and security as well as painting and decluttering.

Small changes make a big difference

“We’re going to install a series of ‘you are here’ maps to give patients and staff passing through the tunnel a better idea of where they are and where they need to go,” says Chris Linden, supervising biomedical technologist and tunnel transformation project working group member. “We’re also going to install more phones for better communication and increased security.”

“Phones are critical for the porters,” says Mary Heim, supervisor, patient transport. “They’re in the tunnel at any time of the day or night taking patients to and from appointments around the hospital. The phones provide a critical link when it comes to patient safety and they give us the ability to get added information about where to pick-up and drop-off patients.”

Members of the tunnel transformation project working group meet with VCH Board Chair and Vancouver Acute COO to discuss updates to the VGH tunnel. l to r Manuel Estocio, Shawn Romack, Ray Rahiman, Ron Schurko, Lisa Parker, Doug Mclean, Mary Heim, Chris Linden, Craig Thompson, Kip Woodward, Vivian Eliopoulos.

Engaging tunnel staff in transformation process 

Kip Woodward, VCH Board Chair and Vivian Eliopoulos, COO, Vancouver Acute, recently visited the tunnel and met with key members of the tunnel transformation working group and heard first-hand what this project means to front-line staff.

“The project is important because patients, families and staff all travel through the tunnel,” Mary says. “Enhancing safety and installing clear signage will improve the environment for staff; and enhancing the ambiance of the tunnel will improve the patient experience and demonstrate to families that their loved ones are receiving the best care.”

“Renewing the tunnel is important to the staff in the morgue,” adds Lisa Parker, morgue diener, “because many outsiders visit us every day including coroners, police, and funeral home attendants. “On the day of a homicide investigation there may be up to 30 people in the morgue.”

The transformation begins

Work has already begun to install additional hand sanitizers, add seven new phones and create the colour-coded stations. The project is set to complete later this spring with a ribbon-cutting celebration in early May.

“The people who work in the tunnel are vital to patient care at VGH. Enhancing the space they work in is a way for us to demonstrate that we support them, we care about their safety and comfort and we recognize how important they are to keeping this hospital running,” says Vivian.

Quick facts about the VGH tunnel

  • Connects buildings from Oak Street to Heather Street (4 blocks)
  • Links 17 buildings
  • Open 24/7
  • 730+ staff work in the tunnel
  • 435+ patient journeys each week

Staff in 15+ departments operate in the tunnel including:

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Crothall (housekeeping)
  • Distribution
  • Eye Bank
  • FMO Bed Repair Shop
  • Laundry
  • Medical Device Reprocessing (MDRD)
  • Morgue
  • Patient Transport
  • Printing
  • Records Management
  • Respiratory Therapy: Respiratory Equipment Assistants
  • Security
  • Stores/Receiving
  • Tissue Bank

Read more about the departments that call the tunnel home

Medical Device Reprocessing Department (MDRD)

Biomedical Engineering Department (Biomed)

Respiratory Therapy: Respiratory Equipment Assistants (REAs)


  1. Carole Schmitz says:

    This is long overdue. I only used the tunnel twice and both times got so lost, I had to backtrack and give up. Directions and some nice new paint and updating will be great!

  2. Jillian says:

    I had to find my way once through these tunnels from the main entrance area to health records in the afternoon after work. It was eerily quiet; I only met one person and got lost several times too. Better lighting would be great and some info/contact stations at several check points along the way (an internal phone/link) to someone to ask for directions or in case of an emergency would be great. Not sure if cell reception is great down in that area. Mirrors at intersections or hidden entrances would also be appreciated.

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