A new era in medical care was officially launched on the weekend with the grand opening of the Hay River Regional Health Centre.
An array of dignitaries joined about 150 community residents on June 11 to celebrate the occasion.
“Today does mark a milestone for the residents of Hay River and the surrounding communities,” said Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy.
The new centre replaces H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital, which served Hay River for more than 50 years.
“Our hope is that this centre will serve the residents for the next 50 years as well as the H.H. Williams Hospital has before,” said Abernethy.
Construction of the $50-million health centre began in 2013.
Abernethy said it is an “impressive accomplishment” that will serve Hay River and the Hay River Reserve, along with Kakisa, Enterprise and Fort Resolution.
“This new facility is a state-of-the-art facility with state-of-the-art features,” said the minister, listing its acute care inpatient beds, emergency department, trauma room, operating room, recovery beds, dialysis unit, X-ray capability, modern laboratory, pharmacy, primary care clinic, midwifery services with birthing beds and more.
“I understand there have already been three babies born in this facility since it opened,” he said.
A number of other speakers also celebrated the fact that babies have been born at the centre.
“It’s great to hear that we’ve had three babies born here already,” said Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann, who is also a member of the territorial cabinet.
K’atlodeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian said all four of his children were born in the old H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital.
“So I’m really glad to hear there’s been three children born here already,” he said, adding that people who live in Hay River should be able to have their children born here in the community, not in Yellowknife. “So for me I think that’s a wonderful thing that we’re starting here…. The children in the future can say, ‘I’m from Hay River. I was born in Hay River.'”
Caroline Cochrane, the minister of Public Works and Services, was also on hand for the opening.
“More than a beautiful building, the Hay River Regional Health Centre will operate efficiently, as well,” she said. “It was designed to perform 10 per cent better than the 2011 National Energy Code for Canada for buildings which is a standard our department aims to achieve with all new construction and major renovation projects.”
Cochrane also said the building’s biomass burner will reduce the need for fuel oil, and displace more than 630 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Various speakers expressed thanks to a number of people who helped advance the project over the years, including former MLAs Paul Delorey, Jane Groenewegen and Robert Bouchard, and Al Woods, the now-retired chief executive officer of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority who was on hand for the opening.
“He really pulled things together for our community,” said Mayor Brad Mapes of Woods. “I’m glad he’s present for the opening and I’d like to thank you Mr. Woods on behalf of our community for all that you have done.”
Abernethy also thanked the staff of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority for their efforts over the last few months in gradually transferring services from H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital to the new health centre.
“Planning and execution of a successful move is not a small feat and I think they’ve done a wonderful job,” he said.
After all the speeches were completed and a ribbon was cut to symbolically open the building, everyone was welcomed inside.
Among the people was Christine Gyapay, who was getting a first look at the entire health centre.
“It’s fabulous,” she said, describing the building as light and bright.
Like many others, Gyapay is particularly pleased the midwifery services are in the building.
“It’s just fabulous to be able to have that,” she said.
After the opening ceremony, Abernethy told The Hub that there is a real opportunity to bring other services to the centre over time.
“There’s lots of opportunity for this building and this building has got room for growth,” he said.
As for what now happens to H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital, Abernethy said for the time being it will continue to house some administration and 10 long-term care beds until a new home for those beds is built adjacent to Woodland Manor.
“There’s not a lot of useful life in that building,” he said of the old hospital. “There’s a lot of deferred maintenance that would be required to bring it into an operational state for anything.”
Abernethy said he has asked the Department of Public Works and Services to reserve the land for the Department of Health and Social Services.
“It might be an appropriate place for long-term care beds in the future,” he said. “It will mean we’ll have to get rid of that building but it’s such a great location.”
Abernethy said Hay River will need a total of 50 long-term care beds by 2026
“We’ve got 20, so we have to find 30 more long-term care beds in Hay River,” he said. “That could be a great location for that. Nothing is confirmed but we’re certainly looking at it.”