Premier John Horgan was in Fort St. James Saturday to take in a few games of the Winter Classic outdoor hockey tournament and drop $116 million for a new hospital.
“One of the fundamental tenets of Canadian citizenship is our health care system,” he said. “It separates us from our often raucous neighbours to the south and, in fact, many peoples around the world.
With that, he announced the $116 million Stuart Lake Hospital replacement has been approved.
The new hospital will be three times larger than the current facility with 27 beds, including 18 long-term care beds. There will be an emergency department with two treatment rooms, a trauma bay and ambulance bay. A laboratory and diagnostic imaging will also be part of the new facility.
The hospital will include a primary care centre that will consolidate services currently being offered in Fort St. James to one location, reducing the distance patients and staff need to go for diagnostic imaging and lab services. It will be home to physicians, visiting specialists, substance-use supports, home and community care, and public health.
“It will bring all the services available today into one convenient place so that people will have access to modern, quality health care,” he said.
Approximately 450 direct and 300 indirect jobs will be created during construction.
The estimated project cost is $116 million, shared between the province through Northern Health, and Stuart-Nechako Regional Hospital District, which will contribute $20 million.
With government approval of the business plan, the project will proceed to procurement. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2021. The hospital is targeted to open for patients in 2024.
The new hospital will be built on the same site as the existing one. Once complete, the existing facility will be demolished to make way for parking.
The current hospital opened in 1972 and is outdated in terms of space, functionality and technology. The hospital has 12 beds and offers emergency, acute and complex care, as well as residential care, lab and X-ray services, as well as mental-health and addictions counselling.
“Bless that old building,” said Horgan. “It served you well, but it owes you nothing. Now is the time to move on.”
Discussions regarding the replacement of the hospital have been ongoing since 2008. In September 2015, Northern Health submitted a concept plan to the Ministry of Health. Northern Health submitted a revised concept plan to government in summer 2018, which was approved in October 2018. The business plan phase finalizes details, such as scope and budget.
All new hospitals in B.C. are planned to a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standard.
The investment in a new Stuart Lake Hospital is part of a wide range of work underway to deliver comprehensive health services for people in the Northern Health region. This includes a redeveloped and expanded Dawson Creek and District Hospital, a new Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, two new urgent and primary care centres in Prince George and Quesnel, as well as progress made for a new emergency department and intensive care unit with redevelopment of the G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel.