It has that new hospital smell … not bad for $350M
Walking through the new Stanton Territorial Hospital was a real treat. I’ve been on tours of many new buildings throughout my career across Canada — a hog processing plant, a downtown jail, a new hockey arena, new stores, new skyscrapers, heck, even a new college campus fashioned from a historic psychiatric hospital — but seeing a place as grand in this small city in the North was something else.
After experiencing a lull in major new building construction since its heyday as a mining and political centre in the North, to watch the new $350 million facility grow from a patch of hard rock that began being blasted in November 2015 has been something to be proud of for sure.
I was one of 250 visitors who quickly snapped up all available spaces for tours of the new hospital over last weekend. Providing coverage for Cabin Radio, I was in a group that included local media — Brett McGarry from NNSL and Walter Strong from CBC North — so our tour guides included Kim Riles, CEO of Stanton Territorial Hospital, and Gloria Badari, executive director, Stanton Hospital Renewal. (I also put together a nine-minute video for this blog.)
Comparing the existing hospital, which opened in the spring of 1988, to the new building, to open the morning of May 26 with a 30-year operational plan in place, is easy to do.
And as someone who has been both an in-and-out patient at Stanton, I can offer some personal testimony as to the need for a new facility. The staff has always been amazing, but they would often gripe about the conditions they were forced to work with. I can’t blame them.
The current hospital is cramped, with out-of-date design and a dark, depressing vibe. There is little privacy, poor security and everything just feels old and worn.
There are 100 patient beds in the new hospital, some 20 more than at present. The 280,000 square-foot new building approximately doubles the size of the current facility.
All rooms are private, each with its own bathroom. This is a major upgrade from the existing hospital’s semi-private rooms.
There are more comfortable chairs for loved ones wanting to spend the night in the patient’s room. And all patient rooms face the exterior of the hospital, with large windows.
Security is upgraded, starting at the emergency room triage area design — a major complaint with the existing hospital. Privacy is enhanced as well in the larger-capacity space.
The emergency room area is far more private than the current hospital. The existing emergency area offers little to de-stress people already in a stressful experience. You see and hear everything going on with other patients. It’s awful.
Also found in the new place are bright lounges, along with a group therapy area where activities such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be held. In a territory struggling with addiction issues where the government refuses to build a residential treatment centre — sending patients to the southern centres — providing a place where people can at least get a pleasant grounding in recovery options is a good idea.
There is a thoughtfully designed Sacred Area on the first floor, with ramped-up ventilation to handle smoke from Indigenous smudging ceremonies.
During the tour I quipped it was the only place in the facility where people can smoke. “They smudge,” came back a stern reply from a department official, also on the tour.
And speaking with medical workers, some aspects of the design might have to be tweaked after the hospital opens. Some routes to often used areas are circuitous, one doctor told me, adding that distances to patient rooms from nurses stations are also much further in the new hospital.
The existing Stanton Hospital, currently referred to as “Legacy Stanton,” will have its cladding and hazardous materials removed by the Boreal Health Partnership starting this summer.
The GNWT will maintain ownership of the building, which will be leased to Ventura Stanton Inc. for development into rental space.
The vision for the building is for it to exist as part of a “Campus of Care.” To date, the GNWT has committed to housing 72 long-term care beds, 18 extended care beds, outpatient rehabilitation services and the Frame Lake Clinic into the renovated Legacy building.
Why a residential treatment centre couldn’t be built in the old hospital is a puzzle to me. But there is an election this year and maybe some aspiring MLA will take that issue on in their campaign.
Overall, I am proud to live in a city with such an amazing new facility. It’s modern, but thoughtful exterior design — with its lovely LED exterior art installation that mimics the Northern Lights — is a welcome addition to the city’s skyline.
I’m on the waiting list for a knee replacement later this summer.
While I hate having to wait so long for this type of procedure on our universal health care system, I was very happy to have had to wait long enough to have the procedure done in the new hospital.
Hopefully, it will give me a leg up on recovery. Get it — Leg up? Knee surgery?
Yeah, I’m a riot.
(In case you missed the link to a nine-minute video I produced from the hospital tour, click here.)