Local senior citizens are staging an April 1 rally to protest the planned demolition of the Seven Sisters mental health facility located on the grounds of Mills Memorial Hospital.
The 20-bed facility, opened in 2004, is scheduled to be demolished to make room for parking and entrance plans for the $633 million replacement of the current Mills Memorial that is now well into construction.
A new Seven Sisters with 25 beds is now being built on the southwest corner of the Mills property to open in December, after which the current one will be torn down. There is no expected gap in services being provided.
This new Seven Sisters will be almost double the size of the current one, with larger recreation and meeting spaces, two apartments and a resident treatment room.
But Skeena Valley Seniors Society members say tearing down the current building is a waste of taxpayers’ money, especially when there is a need for more care services in the area.
“There are so many reasons this shouldn’t happen,” said society president Diana Penner. “There’s a pressing need for respite care. Right now people are in acute care beds [at the hospital] and they shouldn’t be there.”
The current Seven Sisters cost $2.5 million and society members estimate it is now worth $10 million, heightening their argument that it should not be touched.
Penner said the fact that the current Seven Sisters is still occupied and functioning means it has been kept up to date and ready for a next use.
Statements provided by Northern Health are firm that demolition is needed to fit into construction of the new Mills Memorial.
“The current Seven Sisters facility must be removed to make room for the new hospital. This will ensure that we are able to construct a hospital that will meet the growing needs of Terrace and the region,” Northern Health indicated in one statement.
Penner said the demolition plan is based on the current parking configuration for the new Mills, something she says can be changed.
She says society members are convinced the proposed main parking lot of around 200 spaces can be exchanged with a smaller auxiliary one, to save the current Seven Sisters.
“If this is all it takes, it should be solvable,” Penner said of the seniors’ society concept. “It’s a little bit of common sense.”
Switching parking lot configurations would also require switching designated entrances at the new hospital but Penner thinks that’s possible at this stage of construction.
The April 1 rally begins at 1 p.m. at the Seven Sisters just off Tetrault St.