The Stanton Hospital Renewal Project is on schedule, according to government officials and developers.
The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) held a technical briefing to provide an update on the project Thursday. Members of the public were also invited to an open house in the evening.
Construction on the new hospital began in October 2015 immediately adjacent to the existing hospital in Yellowknife. Officials still expect the build should be complete in December 2018.
Remediation and redevelopment of the current hospital will follow the transition to the new facility.
“One of the big advantages of a new build approach compared to possibly a renovation approach is the phasing,” said Mike Burns, assistant deputy minister of public works and services.
“We’re going to have a single construction period delivered by a single contractor which means we’re going to have minimal interruption to the existing operations at the hospital today.
“There will be a period of transition after the construction is completed. But it will be fairly minimal compared to a renovation project.”
Construction of the new building is expected to cost $350 million. The project is being funded using a public-private partnership, or P3 model.
The territorial government will also provide $18 million a year for 30 years to Boreal Health Partnership (BHP) for operation and maintenance of the facility – representing a total commitment of $750 million from the GNWT.
What can patients expect from the new hospital?
The new hospital will be twice as big as the existing one, going from 13,300 m² to 27,500 m².
Designers say they have made accessibility and comfort a priority.
To that end, the new hospital’s emergency department will be situated towards the front of the building instead of around back.
The main entrance will also be on grade so patients with mobility issues won’t have to worry about accessibility.
“The new Stanton is going to be a state-of-the-art facility,” said Jeannie Dhaliwal, director of redevelopment with the Stanton Hospital Renewal Project.
Dhaliwal says patients can expect to have a clear view of Frame Lake from their rooms, almost double the current parking space and access to a therapeutic garden.
There will also be significant enhancements to the hospital’s emergency department, psychiatric unit (including an outdoor patio), medicine unit and infection control.
Meanwhile, double occupancy units will become single patient rooms and the number of surgery beds will increase from 10 to 26.
Because the new hospital is expected to have a 30-year lifetime, developers say its larger blueprint is designed to handle an increase in volume.
So, what does that mean for staffing levels once staff transition from the current hospital to the new one?
“We’re intending to go into the new building with the same staffing model,” said Sue Cullen, CEO of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority.
“The building is built until 2045 so we anticipate an increase.
“The thought was that we’d go in with our existing staffing model and as the occupancy changes, so would the staffing model.”
Cullen says that should allow them to have flexibility during a period of transition.
Stanton officials are also exploring the feasibility of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit. At present, patients requiring that care are sent south.
In 2012, a cost-benefit analysis determined that it was cheaper to send patients to Edmonton for tests than it was to buy and operate a machine in the territory.
Cullen says officials are in the process of determining if that’s still the case.
So, what happens to the old hospital?
Once the transition to the new hospital is complete, BHP will be responsible for stripping back the existing building to the shell and clearing it of any hazardous materials.
Burns says conditions provide that the building can’t be demolished or mothballed in the next 30 years.
Beyond remediation and redevelopment, risk is born by the commercial developer, Ventura Stanton Incorporated, for the life of the 30-year revenue lease agreement.
However, the GNWT will retain ownership of the hospital and associated land, including parking.
Following Thursday’s technical briefing, officials provided reporters with a tour of mock-up designs located in the upper level of Centre Ice Plaza.