MAKE THAT two significant hospital construction projects being pursued by northern B.C. residents.
In addition to the effort of northwestern B.C. health care officials to push for a replacement of aging Mills Memorial Hospital – and to expand it to function as a high-level trauma centre – a similar push is underway in the northeast for substantial construction along with extensive renovations at the hospital in Dawson Creek.
The Mills project cost is estimated in the $430 million range while the Dawson Creek cost is estimated at $250 million.
To date the Northern Health Authority has submitted concept plans, offering very preliminary designs and costs, to the provincial health ministry for both projects.
The authority is now waiting for some kind of sign from the ministry as to what should happen next. As it is, health minister Terry Lake has told officials from both the northeast and northwest in the past that neither project is part of his ministry’s current capital plan.
That’s despite a promise made by Premier Christy Clark last November that the new year would result in a meeting between health ministry officials in Victoria and northern B.C. officials, including those from the North West Regional Hospital District, to chart a path forward for a new Mills.
No such meeting has yet been scheduled.
“We know this hospital is a high priority for Northern Health, and the Ministry of Health has committed to working with Northern Health and the regional hospital district in 2017 to decide on a path forward,” read a statement from the ministry last week.
The district, which would provide some of the financing through property taxes for a new Mills, has published and distributed a pamphlet around the region promoting the plan and has set up an online petition in support of the plan.
It’s also offered to pay for a business case study, the next level up from a concept plan, which would better define project size and cost, for several years now, only to have that offer be rejected by Lake and the ministry.
The Peace River Regional Hospital District is taking a more aggressive approach by saying it’s going to spend $5 million for to develop a business case by itself for the Dawson Creek project.
And that’s despite a warning in a letter from Lake that the plan could be out of date by the time his ministry does decide the Dawson Creek project should go ahead.
“Thanks for the letter, we don’t agree, we want to do this business case,” stated Dawson Creek mayor Dale Bumstead in a story published in the Dawson Creek Mirror last week.
The newspaper also indicated the Liberal MLA for the area, Mike Bernier, who is also the education minister, promised during the 2013 provincial election that action would be taken at the Dawson Creek hospital.
Mills Memorial and the Dawson Creek hospital are similar in many respects. Both play a regional health care role beyond the limits of their respective municipalities.
Mills has 44 beds – 10 in a regional psychiatric unit – with five in intensive care and the rest being general medical/surgical ones. Dawson Creek has 44 beds – 15 of which are in its psychiatric ward, two in its intensive care ward and three in maternity with the remainder being general medical/surgical.
While a completely new Mills is wanted, some parts of the Dawson Creek hospital are considered adequate if renovated.
But the portion where patients are housed, the oldest part of the hospital, needs to be completely replaced, said the Northern Health Authority.
The authority also offered no opinion when asked which project is considered the most crucial.
“Both projects are priorities for Northern Health, and planning continues,” read a statement from the authority.