Community leaders gathered for the countdown to the opening of the new Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre on Friday Oct. 24.
Mayor Luke Strimbold and representatives from Northern Health, Stuart Nechako Regional Hospital District and PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. unveiled the sign that marked 104 days to the opening of the new facility.
“It’s an exciting time when you start a countdown on a project like this,” said the mayor. “It’s extremely impressive how quickly things have been moved and how local employment has been positively affected.”
Marie Hunter, health services administrator for Northern Health, said the community has been lobbying for the construction of this new hospital for the last 10 to 12 years. Hunter said it was after the explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in 2012 that community leaders acknowledged the urgency of building a modern hospital.
“The explosion of the mill was what really brought things to a decision,” she said.
The construction of the new hospital has not only been significant to the community of Burns Lake, but also to the people building it.
“This is more than just a job, more than just a pay cheque” said site superintendent for PCL Constructors Westcoast Grant Blackier. ”It represents so much more, especially to this community. This new hospital represents 65,000 sq. ft. of care.”
The two-storey, green, energy-efficient building is designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. The new hospital will feature 16 beds, including 13 acute care beds, one isolation room, one palliative care room and one labour/delivery/recovery site. The building is disaster proof, and also has the capacity to replace indoor air every nine minutes, as well as the capacity to filter and re-circulate air if necessary.
The new centre will provide acute care and emergency services, diagnostic imaging, a laboratory and pharmacy. Space also is planned for a medical clinic along with the delivery of mental health and addictions services, public health, and home and community care.
“The new hospital will enable staff to deliver high-quality health services in a modernized environment benefiting residents of Burns Lake and the surrounding communities,” said John Rustad, MLA for Nechako Lakes, in a press release.
Construction of the new hospital officially started in June 2013. The building was fully enclosed by January 2014, and crews finished exterior work on the facility in September 2014.
The move of equipment and other materials into the new facility will begin early in February 2015. PCL Westcoast Constructors Inc. is expected to reach substantial completion on the building by December 2014, which will leave about two months for staff training in their new workspace. Landscaping, demolition of the old hospital and health centre, and paving of the new parking lots will occur in early 2015.
According to Ralph Roy, chair of the Stuart Nechako Regional Hospital District, the construction of the new hospital has also presented benefits to the local economy.
“Benefits included the hiring of construction workers, local sub-contractors and other service providers,” he said in a press release. “There were also benefits for local businesses as workers stayed in local hotels and enjoyed local restaurants.”
The total project cost of $55 million is shared between the government of British Columbia and Stuart Nechako Regional Hospital District.
The new hospital is expected to be opened for patients in February 2015.