New hospital will be built in Queen Charlotte

  • Jan. 25, 2008 6:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret-After months of deliberating between a site in Queen Charlotte and a site in Skidegate, the Northern Health board decided Monday (Jan. 21) that the new south-end hospital will be built where the existing hospital stands, in Queen Charlotte. Northern Health board chair Charles Jago said the board listened to representatives from both villages, conducted an engineering study of the two sites and weighed the pros and cons of each before making the decision. A major factor in the decision was the fact that an engineering study estimated it would cost over $8-million more to build the hospital at the Skidegate site, Dr. Jago said. The cost of road, water, electrical and sewer services are all much cheaper for the Queen Charlotte site. Other factors the board considered were the fact that the Queen Charlotte site is close to the RCMP and ambulance service, that the physicians all live close to the existing hospital, and that Queen Charlotte has amenities and accommodation for visiting staff. “We took all of those things into account,” Dr. Jago said. “Our focus is in ensuring the provision of good health services in your area.” Skidegate band councillor Richard Russ said he was extremely disappointed in the decision, and questioned whether it would really cost $8 million more to build at the site Skidegate had offered near the ferry terminal. Skidegate had also offered Northern Health approximately $4-million worth of savings – money from Health Canada, from the band council, and in tax savings – were the hospital to be built there. “It’s hard to believe $8 million, I’ll put it that way,” he said. “I’m very disappointed. I thought our community would get a fair chance at this.” Mr. Russ said the Skidegate Band Council would be considering its options in light of the decision, and looking for fresh methods of delivering health care to the community. He also said the band council would be talking to Northern Health. “The level of service to Skidegate residents is going to have to improve,” he said. The site decision allows Northern Health to move forward with master planning for the new facility, which is expected to cost more than $20-million. Dr. Jago said it was important to make the decision now and not delay further. “This has been a very difficult debate between the communities, whose representatives both put forward important points for their respective positions,” he said. “By making this step now, we can move forward with master planning for the future replacement of the hospital. We need to conduct our master planning to bring information forward to potential funding partners including but not limited to the Ministry of Health and the North West Regional Hospital District. Further delays in that planning process could have jeopardized this project.” Dr. Jago also said that the board has asked staff to work with the band council and the Skidegate health centre to make sure health services offered by Northern Health work with those offered in Skidegate, and look for opportunities for working together. Northern Health chief executive Cathy Ulrich said the next step will be to complete the master planning process, which she said should be done by the end of March. Northern Health will then bring its proposal forward to the Ministry of Health and the North West Regional Hospital District. The project will also be examined to see if it could be developed as a public-private partnership, she said. The provincial government requires any project costing over $20-million be examined for “P3” potential.

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