PATIENT washrooms at Mills Memorial Hospital are inadequate and out of date.

PATIENT washrooms at Mills Memorial Hospital are inadequate and out of date.

Trauma service key to a new Mills Memorial Hospital

New hospital would vastly improve services in northwestern B.C.

  • Aug. 24, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Demolish the current Mills Memorial Hospital.

And build a new and much larger one on the same property but with its main entrance facing Tetrault St. and located much closer to the Sande Overpass.

The plan, which would result in the largest publicly-financed and most expensive construction project ever in this area at an estimated $430 million with the exception of B.C. Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, was commissioned by the Northern Health Authority in 2013 and submitted to the province the following year.

But the document, called a concept plan in the world of construction, has languished there ever since despite a growing local call for the province to move the project along.

It’s not as if local officials are asking the province to approve construction – what they want is for the province to undertake a Mills replacement business plan, a detailed document that would even include architectural plans and a solid idea of costs.

It would present the pros and cons of construction to the point of discussing whether or not extensive renovations of the existing main building, now 57 years old and considered well past its prime with inadequate washrooms for patients and inadequate space for its existing services, might be a better use of limited public monies.

Developing a business case is the next step after the concept plan and its findings figure in the decision-making on what should be financed and why by the provincial Treasury Board.

A request last year by the North West Regional Hospital District for the province to proceed was denied even after the hospital district, which provides 40 per cent of the money for health care projects, told the province it would foot the bill for a business case study all by itself.

The hospital district, its board of directors made up of directors of the three regional districts in the northwest, is to make that same request again next month when it meets with cabinet ministers in Victoria.

The hospital district has done this kind of thing before – it fronted the entire $2.7 million cost for the business case which then resulted in the approval for a $50 million new hospital in Queen Charlotte City on Haida Gwaii. It’s to open this fall.

The hospital now being reimbursed 60 per cent of that amount by the provincial government, which is the standard percentage amount the province pays for hospital construction.

But just as important as a strategy for how to convince the province a new Mills Memorial is needed is the Northern Health Authority’s plans for what should be located inside.

It wants to vastly increase the level of care for patients by having Mills be classified as a Level III trauma centre offering services only available now in the north at the health authority’s main hospital in Prince George.

At its current Level V status, Mills Memorial stabilizes patients needing critical care for transport to better-equipped facilities.

At a Level III status, however, Mills would have the facilities to offer, among a long list of direct and support services, around the clock general surgery within 20 minutes, around the clock orthopedic surgery within 30 minutes and have at all times an in-house emergency room physician on duty.

Information prepared by the hospital district indicates requests for a new Mills, and not a renovated one, dates back to at least 2010.

The prospect of a Level III trauma centre for a new Mills Memorial was first raised in 2013, indicate background documents prepared by the regional hospital district.

“As industry considers new development in the north, surrounding infrastructure will play a role in the final decision-making process,” states the district.

“New and existing industry needs to bring with it employees and knows that accessible health care, quality education and quality recreation are major factors for their staff considering relocating.”

The hospital district acknowledges the timeline for hospital construction is long – six years or more from concept to construction.

“Mills Memorial is operating well beyond expectations and capacity, yet it is not slated by the province for replacement any time in the near future.”

“What statement must be reached before a hospital becomes a priority for replacement,” it asks.