THE PROVINCIAL government has approved the first step toward either an extensive renovation of Mills Memorial Hospital or a new structure to replace the facility, Premier Christy Clark announced while in the area today.
While approval of a business case study is not a guarantee that a project will go ahead, one is necessary to define the size and scope of any project being contemplated and what its costs might be, she said.
“We really need to see what the next steps are,” said Clark.
And should a business case be made for either an extensive renovation or a new structure, the document would then go to the Treasury Board, the cabinet committee which decides on expenditures, for what Clark called a “full vetting and then to cabinet.”
The business case study would be conducted and completely financed for now by the North West Regional Hospital District which is headquartered in Terrace.
But it would be reimbursed by the province for a portion of the cost should a project be ultimately approved.
It’s not unusual for business case studies to take up to two years.
Clark said the hospital district, the Northern Health Authority and the provincial health ministry would be meeting early in the new year to discuss what should happen next.
In this circumstance, a business case study would further define a concept plan commissioned by the Northern Health Authority several years ago.
Based on that plan, recent estimates used by the regional hospital district now place the cost of a new Mills in the range of $430 million.
“That would make it one of the more expensive hospitals we’ve ever built,” said Clark.
That’s why a business case study is needed to better define the costs of any project under contemplation, she added.
Clark’s announcement today reverses what had been the refusal for the past two years by health minister Terry Lake of requests made by the hospital district to commission a business case study even if they had to pay for one on their own.
Clark said the reversal came after tours of the hospital by both Lake and finance minister Mike de Jong.
There’s been a growing call since mid-year to replace aging Mills Memorial Hospital with local government officials saying it doesn’t meet modern health care standards.