New hospital in the planning stages

Too early to talk about details, but Mills is at the top of the Northern Health Authority's renewal list

Preliminary planning has started on what Mills Memorial Hospital should look like, how large it should be, how many beds it should have and what services it should offer in the next decades.

But it is still far too early to talk about details of size and services and whether parts of Mills will be rebuilt or whether a completely new building is called for, said Northern Health Authority communications official Steve Raper.

“What we need to do is engage a broad audience for a picture of what we really need,” said Raper.

“What we’re looking at is planning for something to serve needs 20, 30 and 40 years out.”

First steps involve hiring a consultant to begin putting together a planning framework, Raper added.

At the moment there is no construction timetable set, no budget established and no financial commitment from the province which will provide the majority of the construction money.

“But I can tell you Mills Memorial is one of our priorities as part of a renewal plan,” said Raper.“What we need to do is be ready when it’s time.”

The Mills Memorial project has moved up on the Northern Health Authority’s renewal list now that replacement hospitals for Burns Lake and the Village of Queen Charlotte on Haida Gwaii have been announced.

Work on each is scheduled to start this year and both are to be completed in 2015.

Both the Queen Charlotte and Burns Lake hospitals are more than 50 years old and judged too out of date to be renovated.

While there is no budget set yet for Mills, construction budgets for both Burns Lake and Queen Charlotte provide an idea of current costs.

The new hospital in Burns Lake will have 16 beds and cost up to $55 million and the Queen Charlotte hospital will have 9 beds and 8 residential care beds at a cost of up to $50 million.

The core structure of Mills is also approximately 50 years old and it contains 29 acute care beds.

But a series of projects over the past 11 years have resulted in a renovated 10-bed regional psychiatric unit, a kidney dialysis service in what was an administration wing and the construction of a new intensive care unit immediately beside a renovated emergency room on the hospital’s ground floor.

How those newer facilities may fit in with an overall renewal plan has yet to be determined.

Mills Memorial does sit on a sizeable piece of land and that may be an advantage in planning construction, said Raper.

But he said that depends upon the final design and services decision.

There’s only been one full hospital replacement project in the north and that took place in Fort St. John where a 55-bed facility complete with numerous services accompanied by an adjacent 123-bed residential care facility was opened in June 2012 at a total project cost of $301 million.