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Mills Memorial Hospital build budget increases

Another $10 million needed for advanced before and after birth care
The new Mills Memorial Hospital will include a high level of before and after birth care. (Photo by Trevor Gawdin)

The cost of building the new Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace has increased and authorities are now working on a way to come up with the money.

The original $622.6 million budget has increased to $632.6 million with the additional $10 million needed so that a specialized section for before and after birth care can be added — that was neither planned nor budgeted for when the construction contract was signed in 2021.

How the $10 million will be raised is being discussed between the Northern Health Authority, the North West Regional Hospital District, which raises money for health care in the region through property taxes, and the Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation which raises money through donations and other means for Mills Memorial and Terraceview Lodge.

Steve Raper, who speaks for Northern Health, said details of how the $10 million will be raised will be released soon. Raper described the addition of a high level before and after birth care service, called Tier 3, as extremely valuable for the region.

Under Tier 3, births could take place at Mills as early as 34 weeks, reducing the need to transport expectant mothers elsewhere. Mills would also be a receiving hospital for expectant mothers from other hospitals in the region.

“This all means care closer to home for many new mothers and newborns and their families,” a briefing note from Northern Health explained.

What isn’t known is whether a portion of the $10 million will be made up of property taxes through the North West Regional Hospital District. Raper said those issues are under discussion.

Under a deal reached with the province, the contribution through regional property taxes levied by the hospital district has been capped at $113.7 million, with the province contributing the remaining $508.6 million.

Any decision to exceed the $113.7 million tax cap would need the approval of the hospital district’s board, which is made up of representatives from the three regional districts within the northwest.

Northern Health has a limited capital budget of its own according to Raper. He declined to say if Northern Health has asked the province for more money.

“At this time the province has made a commitment,” said Raper of the original $622.3 million budget.

“Right now Northern Health is working with the hospital district and the Dr. R.E.M. Lee Foundation.”

The original cost was cited at $14.5 million by hospital builder PCL Constructors a year ago when it warned Northern Health that the price was good only until the end of November 2021.

Raper acknowledged the figure used by PCL yet added, “$10 million is what we have budgeted for.”

The decision to increase the level of birth care, after the original construction contract was signed, was reached once health officials had examined birth data and newly-published care guidelines.

“The primary drivers for the decision to pursue a Tier 3 designation are the nature and number of births, as well as local service considerations,” Northern Health briefing notes indicated.

This level of care does not affect the square footage of the hospital or the maternity and gynecology bed count, that will rise to five from the current three. The number of labour rooms will increase from three to four.

About the Author: Rod Link

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