Planned renovations to St. John Hospital have been put on hold after the current plans have been deemed unworkable by hospital staff.
Renovations to the emergency and outpatients department have been on the cards for three years, with the funding finally being confirmed last fall.
In a story in the Omineca Express on October 27 2010, a Northern Health spokesperson said the floor plans for the renovations were being finalized and that work would begin around March 2011.
Last week however, the floor plans were going back to the drawing board.
Original plans for the renovations include an expansion of the emergency department, and changes to the way emergency ambulances access the hospital.
At the moment when the ambulance attendants bring emergency patients into the hospital they have to walk through the laboratory seating area.
The plans included changing the entrance for ambulances so that patients can be brought directly into the emergency department.
Northern Health said the work is turning out to be more challenging than was originally anticipated, since the hospital has to maintain its vital services during the renovations.
“If we could close the emergency department for three or four months and actually do the work, we could absolutely do this, but we’re really struggling with how to actually do the work while still maintaining all of the services in the hospital at the same time,” said Michael Mcmillan, a Chief Operating Officer with Northern Health.
“It’s not an uncommon problem – it’s actually a real problem in every single renovation we do in any of our facilities – how to keep them going while your doing the work?” he said.
District of Vanderhoof Mayor, Gerry Thiessen, said he’s concerned about the delay in the renovations, but confident the challenges can be overcome.
“My concern is that Northern Health has had this renovation on the books even before I was elected to council two and a half years ago.
“Basically now we’re at square zero with no plans that seem feasible at this time,” he said.
“It’s almost a good thing because it allows for input from hospital staff…and we seem to have good buy-in from everyone involved as to what our next step should be, and a determination to go ahead with this,” he added.
On May 9, Northern Health came to Vanderhoof for a meeting with the project manager and hospital staff.
“They actually sat down and really started to look at some of these issues and to identify what’s absolutely critical,” said Mcmillan.
A second meeting was planned between the architect and the hospital staff in Vanderhoof on Friday May 20.
“I have every confidence that they’ll come to a decision on exactly how to phase this work and what needs to happen.
“Our commitment is we’re gonna keep working on this until we actually get it right and get something that we can deliver,” said McMillan.
Staff have also voiced concerns that any renovation done to the hospital will need to meet the needs of the community and surrounding area for a number of years.
“One of the physicians said at the meeting last week that it’s critical that we get this right because we’re designing something that’s going to be in place not just for a couple of years but 10 or 20 years – so lets make sure we get it right and not rush into it,” said McMillan.
He added that an expansion to the hospital would be a last resort.
“It is a very difficult site to add on to for a number of reasons – structurally the addition would be very very difficult and the soil conditions in that area make it a very difficult building to expand right now,” he said.
He added that the price of an expansion would be at a whole different level.
“An expansion would be way beyond double what the existing project is and I can’t even speculate as to how much that would be.
“However, I think given the work that was done on May 9, there is an option that they can look at that doesn’t require building expansion at this time,” said Mcmillan.
As long as the changes to the plans aren’t too substantial, Mcmillan expects the renovations can begin in the near future.
Despite the delays to the interior renovations, a separate electrical upgrade at the hospital is currently underway.