B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced last Friday the province has approved the concept plan for a new Mills Memorial Hospital.
“What that means,” he said, “is we are a go. There is going to be a new Mills Memorial Hospital and we are going to proceed with all the speed we can to make that happen. This is a commitment from the Premier on down.”
Dix made the announcement in the crowded main lobby of Mills Memorial, surrounded by about 50 officials, hospital staff and Terrace residents who greeted the news with cheers and applause.
“A great community, a great region needs a great hospital. We’re going to have one in Terrace,” he said, emphasizing the process will involve full participation of the First Nations community to ensure “it’s an open and welcoming place for everyone.”
“This is a great day, and I think it represents the work of everyone here, and so many people and so many communities outside this room, who worked to make this day happen.”
He finished with a nod to medical staff, saying they will receive the state-of-the-art hospital they deserve in the 21st century.
Now that the province has approved the concept plan the project will move onto the business-planning stage, which will detail the scope and budget of the project. The concept plan included a Level III trauma centre, meaning the hospital will have resources for emergency resuscitation, surgery, and intensive care for trauma patients.
Addressing the room, Chair of the Northwest Regional Hospital District, Harry Nyce, said it was an “extremely, extremely wonderful day for the Northwest district,” to see a concept plan that honours the needs of people from Burns Lake to Haida Gwaii and north to Dease Lake who rely on Mills Memorial.
“It’s important it reflect who we are as a people,” he said. “And recognizes the need for investment into our health. I’m also pleased that the plan extends to the needs of mental health in the region.”
The planning stage is expected to take 12 to 18 months before procurement and construction.
“We know people have been waiting a long time for a new hospital in Terrace, so our government made the project a priority and moved quickly on approval,” said Dix.
“We are taking actual steps on a state-of-the art facility that will serve families in the region for decades to come.”
The new hospital will be funded in partnership with North West Regional Hospital District, with details still being worked out.
“The final details get worked out in the business case because we want to be very precise and meet budget,” Dix said to reporters following the announcement. “But the concept plan is talking about something in the neighbourhood of $370 million.”
Mills Memorial has long been recognized as a regional hospital, to which Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP said the new facility will be a “lynch pin” for the recruitment and retention of medical professionals, and provide momentum for other developments in the Northwest as a whole.
“It’s been this very, very slow process where previous governments have moved in too slow a way. It’s always been contingent on other things—if this gets built, if this pipeline goes through—but the vote of confidence today from Horgan’s government is that we need to invest in this region. This region is going to be strong for a long time to come.
“When you have a hospital that’s beyond it’s life, it’s just such a bad sign. Is it a dying community? Is it a community just not worth investing in or moving to? But when you get an announcement like this…it’s a vote of confidence for the entire region, saying we’re strong and we’re going to be here for a long time.”
The new hospital is already playing into discussions with the City of Terrace and the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance. As a benchmark for future development and growth in the region, Terrace mayor Carol LeClerc said the RBA will be using that to their advantage in future strategies, particularly in light of the provincial government’s promise of affordable living, strong economic development and improved service delivery.
“We want to be part of that,” she said. “Of course with the new hospital we are going to make sure we provide services for everybody in the Northwest. And having a state-of-the-art hospital I think puts a little feather in the cap of the people who live here.”
–with files from Quinn Bender