After 20 years of asking the government for a new hospital, the Village of Queen Charlotte is finally getting its dilapidated and obsolete hospital replaced.
The provincial government announced on Thursday afternoon that they will be spending $50-million to build a brand new hospital in the small community.
“I’m honoured to be in Haida Gwaii to announce that our government is moving forward with planning for a new hospital. This facility will include residential care beds as well as space for out-patient care such as public-health services like mental-health care as part of a new hospital. This will help reduce the need to leave the island for specialized care,” said the provincial minister of Aboriginal Relations, Mary Polak.
The mayor of the Village of Queen Charlotte, Carol Kulesha, has been one of the biggest proponents of replacing the aging hospital; working through the Skeena – Queen Charlotte Regional District as well as the Regional Hospital District (which is investing $2.7-million towards the new facility) for the past couple years to convince the province that it was worth spending the money on.
“I think it was the fact that we were all united here on the islands, that our MLA supported us, that the Regional Hospital District – which spans from Smithers, to Stewart, to Haida Gwaii – wouldn’t talk about anything else until that got done. That kind of support went to the Minister of Health and the Premier, and I think they heard us,” says Kulesha.
Local MLA, Gary Coons says that the decision is great news and has been a long time coming.
“It’s about time. The hospital has been a priority for a long time, for many people but did not seem to be on the radar of the government until we brought up the concerns in the legislature last year . . . Those on the islands deserve first class health care and I am glad they responded to their needs,” says Coons.
A detailed planning process for the new hospital is expected to begin this spring, a final business plan will be put together and the construction project going to tender soon after.
The plan at the moment is to build the new hospital on the same piece of property as the current one. The medical clinic located on top of the current hospital will have to be relocated offsite first, the hospital itself will remain in place as the new facility is built around it, allowing it to still take patients which otherwise would have been forced to go the hospital 100 km away in Masset.
“Then one day when the new one is finished, the hospital gets taken down and it becomes the parking lot,” explains Kulesha.
Kulesha says the new hospital will be “a huge improvement over the one they we have now.” The current hospital was built in the 1950’s and is too small to fit everything inside, so staff were forced to use put services in outside buildings, and even these are not in good condition.
The hospital’s cancer-fighting drugs used in chemotherapy are being mixed in a retrofitted smokehouse because the hospital’s pharmacy doesn’t have proper ventilation. The morgue had to be condemned because of its floor, and not families have to view their dead in make-shift morgue inside an trailer.
Main building is also riddled with structural problems and only has one wheelchair accessible bathroom which is used by everyone from emergency room patients to visitors,
“This is going to be a new and sturdy building built to be earthquake proof, and it’s going to have things like a bathroom per patient room,” says Kulesha.
Kulesha says that she is very pleased that the province has taken the hospital issue seriously even as they struggle tot try to contain costs.
“I’m very grateful to the government, I really am. In a time of fiscal restraint, small communities don’t usually get to be hears, and we got heard.”