B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix was in Terrace Tuesday to announce the approval of the new Mills Memorial Hospital business plan.
The approval is a crucial phase in replacing the old facility as it commits provincial funding to the project and opens the door to the actual construction process.
Before construction of the new Mills begins, the current Seven Sisters residential mental health care facility will be demolished to make room.
Dix said construction of a new and larger Seven Sisters facility will start before the end of the year and will be open by the fall of 2020.
The new Mills will have 78 beds, up from the current 44, and is scheduled for completion in 2024.
A $447.5 million budget has been set out and $18 million of that will be for the new Seven Sisters.
The cost will be shared between the provincial government through Northern Health and the North West Regional Hospital District, which is contributing $110.2 million.
“This is an exciting time for people in Terrace and area, as we are delivering on the goal of a modern, bigger hospital that will be part of a network of care in the North that will have more beds and up-to-date technology to improve patients’ care,” said Dix. “The new facility will support the public health-care needs of local residents, as well as people in nearby communities, for decades to come.”
Dix noted that patients will have their own rooms at the new Mills.
The new Mills Memorial Hospital will be built to the north of the current Mills and when finished, the current Mills will be demolished to make room for parking.
The new hospital will serve as the Northwest region’s level-three trauma and inpatient surgery centre, providing immediate assessment, resuscitation, surgery and intensive care for injured patients. Currently, the hospital is a level-five trauma centre, meaning patients are stabilized on-site before being transported elsewhere. There will also be improvements to pediatric and maternity care.
There will be an expected increase in operating costs and staff numbers when the hospital first opens. Northern Health will aim to hire locally as more staff will be needed to work in the new hospital, with a focus on services for seniors, primary care and physician recruitment.
With the concurrent construction of two new facilities on site, Dix recognized there will be some accessibility challenges to work through. The mental health facility’s construction, which will start when the tenders are released next month, will need to begin before the current hospital’s demolition.
“The decision to go forward, whatever the short-term difficulties are, this offers enormous hope. When you see the hospital being built — that is going to be momentous, and that will allow us to get through any challenges in the construction phase.”
Though there is an unused helicopter pad just behind the current Mills, plans to incorporate a new helipad is not a key item in the business plan Dix says, but there may be capacity to incorporate helicopter services in the future.
“We are excited to see that the tremendous amount of work that has been underway has now resulted in this announcement,” says Barry Pages, chair, North West Regional Hospital District. “The North West Regional Hospital District Board has been committed to partnering with the Province and Northern Health Authority to see this project become a reality, to strengthen our existing services and to allow for increased health care closer to home for all Northwest residents.”
Dix last visited Terrace in February 2018 to announce the approval of the hospital’s concept plan. The approval of the business plan today keeps the project on schedule.