It was only a couple of months ago that two representatives from Northern Health came to Burns Lake and gave a presentation to the mayor and council regarding the new hospital being built in Burns Lake.
The two representatives, Michael McMillian, Chief Operating Officer for the Northern Interior Health Services Area and Marie Hunter, the Lakes District Health Service Administrator for Northern Health were very ecstatic in their presentation to council.
In it they announced that construction on the new hospital was ahead of schedule, and that instead of opening the hospital next summer, the new hospital would be ready to begin transferring patients and equipment in January 2015, the hospital was six months ahead of schedule.
Some of the figures for the new hospital are as follows.
The cost to build the hospital was $55 million, with only 20 per cent of the bill being funded by the Stuart-Nechako Regional Hospital District instead of the traditional 40 per cent.
The new building will be approximately 65,000 square feet, nearly double the size of the old hospital building in Burns Lake.
The hospital will see an increase in beds from 13 to 16.
A negative pressure room has been built for infection control.
There is a new emergency room, with a large decontamination station and a new ambulance bay where patients will be easier to transfer to the hospital from the ambulance.
And finally, there is according to McMillian, “a very, very large and very good maternity delivery area.”
Over the past couple of months the Lakes District News has been highlighting the stories of Burns Lake women who have given birth in recent years.
The common theme, women in Burns Lake have added stress when it comes to pregnancies because of the added travel involved to give birth.
The new maternity ward at the hospital should be seen is a great development.
However, last week I spoke with a couple who had just welcomed their second child to their family.
They have been unhappy with the quality of care at the Burns Lake hospital for some time, and Loren Tourand said that he was skeptical that a new building would elevate that care.
I have yet to have to visit the Burns Lake hospital for a medical problem so I have no first hand experience. but I agree with what Loren Tourand said to me, in that the new hospital building will only improve care if the equipment and staff improve.
If it doesn’t, then our community will still be getting the same level of care, just in a new building.
Northern Health must recruit and retain new professionals to practise medicine in Burns Lake.
The hope is this new building will help recruit these doctors here and I sincerely hope it does because for women to not be able to give birth in their own community is really baffling.
This new hospital building will now give them the opportunity to have babies in Burns Lake, but will they feel comfortable doing so, or will they continue to travel to Smithers and Prince George.
Michael McMillian has told us that we “don’t understand how staff get used to working in really poor conditions, and to have something this fantastic is going to have an amazing impact on equipment and retention.”
Well, I hope his prophecy is correct because we deserve quality medical attention.