Health authority presents plans for new health centre

Al Woods, left, speaks at a meeting at the community hall about the new health centre March 13, joined by public administrator Mike Maher, and Hay River MLAs Jane Groenewegen and Robert Bouchard. Photo by Sarah Ladik NNSL

Al Woods, left, speaks at a meeting at the community hall about the new health centre March 13, joined by public administrator Mike Maher, and Hay River MLAs Jane Groenewegen and Robert Bouchard.
Photo by Sarah Ladik
NNSL

Although construction is on hold for the season, the concept and plans for the new health centre were on display March 13 at a public meeting hosted by the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.

The $50-million health centre will have a total of 19 beds, an emergency department, a midwifery suite, as well as labs and a rehabilitation centre.

While some services will remain off-site – particularly ones involving administrative and human resources departments, along with social services – the new centre will also require a few more positions to fill its needs.

“We went into this project with the intention of becoming a centre of excellence in three areas,” said hospital CEO Al Woods that night to the 45 or so people gathered in the community hall.

He named dental health, diagnostics, and rehabilitation as the three areas on which efforts of both space and money would be focused.

The facility itself will grow to 6,700 square metres, an increase of nearly 40 per cent in floorspace from the current buildings on Woodland Drive.

Residents in attendance, however, were not ready to accept the centre wholesale.

They asked questions about the placement of the new facility in the industrial area, and Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard brought up its location next to Stittco’s propane tanks.

“This is the site that has been chosen and we have to work with that,” said Woods.

As for the propane tanks, Woods said they have now been factored into the emergency plan for the centre and are being dealt with.

Perhaps the hottest issue of the night, however, had to do with the announcement of 10 new long-term care beds to be attached to Woodland Manor.

The authority has been mum on the subject despite public pressure for some months, but Woods said he was relieved to finally have information to share.

“The way things unfolded, there had to be no answer,” he said, adding that in November, the legislative assembly set aside money and that the request for proposals on the construction of a new “pod” for the beds was closing within a week.

The new building would be connected to Woodland Manor with nine beds in the new space and one in the current Manor facility.
Woods said the hope is that construction will be completed around the same time as the December 2015 deadline for the health centre, but that patients in long-term care will stay where they are until the new space is finished in any case. He also noted that Woodland Manor itself would need replacing around 2020.

Wally Schumann, president of the Hay River Metis Government Council, said that while he is pleased the beds are back in the dialogue, he wondered why the plan was to build them for 2015 only to replace the whole Woodland Manor facility 10 years later.

“I’d like to know what kind of studies were done on the demographics of the area,” he told The Hub after the meeting.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to build long-term care beds once?”

The Department of Public Works, he said, is now looking into the leasing situation in town, seeking space for all the services that will no longer be contained by the old H.H. Williams Hospital, nor the new one.

“You don’t see much empty space that would be suitable that is available in town,” Woods said. “That’s with the Department of Public Works now. This planning is well underway. The department is aware of it and we’re aware of it and we’re doing everything we can.”

Off-site services, such as the authority’s legal department, social services, and human resources, are also a further complication that will need to be dealt with.
Woods said that while the old buildings will revert to the Department  of Public Works when the hospital and its staff move out in early 2016, the Department of Health and Social Services wants to keep the land in case it’s needed for the future expansion of Woodland Manor.

-Sarah Ladik