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Hospital renovations being studied
Yellowknife MLA has doubts relating to $200 million project's viability during life of the 17th legislative assembly

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stanton Territorial Hospital is gearing up for an estimated $200 million in renovations and possible expansions in 2015.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sarah Kyne, a registered nurse, looks at the levels of an IV drip at Stanton Territorial Hospital Monday. A study is currently underway for renovations at the NWT's largest hospital. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

However, some Yellowknife MLAs believe the viability of the project during the 17th legislative assembly is on shaky ground with other big projects - such as the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway - potentially hauling in much of the GNWT's budget and loan limit from the federal government.

The hospital is 25 years old, and renovations are expected to keep the facility running until 2045. At that time, Tom Beaulieu, minister of the Department of Health and Social Services, said the hospital will undergo another upgrade versus a replacement - the less expensive of the two options.

The beginnings of a planning study started last year. There is $1.2 million in the 2011-12 territorial budget to research what types of services will remain at the hospital, where they will be located and what programs should be kept, scrapped or implemented.

Kines Consulting Inc., based in Vancouver, was awarded the study contract in May 2011. There was $3 million approved in the most recent budget to continue the planning study and an additional $1 million is set for the 2013-14 budget to "finish off the schematic planning, design work and operational planning" of the study, said Beaulieu, in time for a 2015 start date for construction.

However, Daryl Dolynny, MLA for Range Lake, said there are a lot of unknowns, such as the final cost of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway, as well as how much the federal government will be handing over in much-needed aid.

"A lot of regular members are gravely concerned whether or not this could be a viable project during the life of the 17th assembly," he said.

"If, by chance, this (Inuvik to Tuk) road is anywhere between the $275 (million) to $300 million, which are numbers that have been shared by the department and the minister ... this could easily eat away our borrowing limit to the point of reaching that $800 million threshold. Unless there's any new moneys, anyone who does the simple math can say, 'Well, what happens to the other projects down the road?' And that answer is quite easily, there is none."

Dolynny, who has chaired the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation and has made a career in the health-care sector, said he's constantly concerned the government is not spending enough on health care. With the population across the country aging, he said the equipment, programs and services must be in place.

As business and industry grow in the territory, infrastructure such as hospitals must be looked at to see what can handle future economic growth, he said.

"You have to think about growth and growing for the future and ensuring our health care is there when we're going to need it," he said.

Beaulieu said he took a tour of Stanton Territorial Hospital in November and spoke with people on the ground level - the physicians, nurses and administrators who spend their days in the building and know what needs to change.

"The closer you get to the technical people and hospital administrators, they would have a pretty good handle on exactly what services should be provided within the hospital and what doesn't," said Beaulieu.

The hospital has three public floors and is 19,500 square metres in area. Beaulieu said hospital space is very expensive due to air-quality control. The Stanton Health Authority has more than 400 full-time and part-time staff. On average the hospital sees 4,800 patients each month.

Another aspect of the planning study is to deduce if there are any services that do not have to be in the hospital and if they could be relocated.

"I think there will be more space. There may be a realignment of some of the services that are in the hospital," he said, stating an example of possibly moving the intensive care unit to sit next to emergency on the first floor from where it is now on the third floor.

Capital projects for the upcoming two years have been identified for the facility. Plans are being developed to create a new oncology/IV suite and to expand the medical day care unit.

Stanton is not the only health care cost coming down the pipe. There is also a need for a new hospital in Hay River and renovations at the Fort Smith Health Centre.

"We need the hospital. We can't have a hospital that's not able to provide the full service to the people of the Northwest Territories," said Beaulieu.

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