Representatives from Northern Health attended the Village of Burns Lake council last Tuesday, and brought exciting news to Mayor Strimbold and council, announcing that the new hospital in Burns Lake is set to open ahead of schedule.
Michael McMillian, Chief Operating Officer of Northern Interior Health Service Delivery Area and Marie Hunter, Lakes District Health Service Administrator for Northern Health announced to council last Tuesday that after visiting and touring the site of the new hospital in Burns Lake that the construction is ahead of schedule.
It was only two years ago, in April 2012 that the project was announced, and a year later PCL Construction, the construction company hired, broke ground on construction.
Northern Health originally planned to open the hospital in the summer of 2015, but now plans are to have the hospital open and operational in January 2015.
McMillian said that the work that PCL has done is outstanding, adding that they have worked with the company on past projects, and that the work has always been great, but has never seen anything like the work that has been done on this project.
“They complemented the community on the work and dedication of the local community workers,” McMillian said, “they talked about the lack of issues they’ve had and credited it to the amount of local involvement.
McMillian adds that the hope is that the companies hired to do that job would hire as many local tradesmen as possible, but that Northern Health can’t dictate who the company employs.
McMillian and Hunter took a tour of the new hospital before meeting with council and reported a number of encouraging factors that would lead to Northern Health being able to open the hospital earlier than planned.
The bottom floor of the hospital had approximately 90 per cent of the drywall up, 75 per cent of it is mudded and even some of the space is already painted.
Where the drywall isn’t up the steel studs are up.
The new hospital was a $55 million project, with only 20 per cent of the funding being provided by the Stuart-Nechako Regional Hospital District, instead of the traditional 40 per cent.
The new hospital is over 65,000 square feet, nearly double what the old facility in Burns Lake was.
McMillian also reports that the new hospital will have an increased number of beds from 13 to 16, something that is not typically done with the building, or renovations of hospitals in communities.
Along with the additions of more beds the new facility will include a number of significant upgrades.
There will be a negative pressure room for infection control purposes, a secure room for clients that need the space and in the words of McMillian, “a very, very large and very good maternity delivery area.”
However, what be the most significant of the upgrades is the upgrade to the emergency room.
The new emergency room will dwarf the old one.
“The ER is going to be a very well designed space. We can all think back to the response to the mill disaster, and the space that staff worked out of and cared for all those patients in will fit into one corner of the new emergency room,” McMillian said.
Along with the larger space there will be a proper decontamination station so that people are not being decontaminated with buckets and hoses in the parking lot in the middle of winter, along with a new ambulance bay that opens up directly to the ER room, making it easier to transfer patients from the ambulance to the emergency room.
The biggest problems that have faced hospitals in Northern B.C. in the past has been the recruitment and retention of physicians and staff. McMillian notes that Northern Health has been recruiting four physiotherapists for quite some time and that it finally looks like they have a commitment from one.
The new hospital McMillian said will help with recruitment and retention,
“This facility is designed to collocate medical practices with public community care and that integration is something we are beginning to see as very valuable to the northern communities,” McMillian said, “it’s actually impacting recruiting and retention in other communities.”
In the end, McMillian said the impact of moving into a new building is the most exciting factor.
“I’ve had the opportunity over the course of my 30-35 year career to move into new space, and you don’t get that opportunity very often,” McMillian said, “you don’t understand how staff get used to working in really poor conditions then to move into something that fantastic this is going to be an amazing impact on equipment and retention.”