The new Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James is one step closer to reality after the signing of an agreement so construction can begin next month.
B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix confirmed in an interview that the new facility is now planned to open for patients in 2025 — one year later than previously announced. Dix expects building to conclude in 2024 but the hospital will open one year later.
“We’re just proceeding with this project. It obviously is an expensive project,” Dix said. “Now it’s time to build it and we’re fired up ready to go… We’ve got an agreement with Graham Design Builders, who went through the process, and they’re going to start construction shortly.”
The Stuart Lake Hospital replacement project was approved in 2018. In 2020 the province said construction was to begin last summer with the new hospital projected to open for patients in 2024.
The signing of a design-build agreement with Graham Design Builders LP announced on Tuesday (April 19) comes a year after the company was selected for the design phase in March last year.
“We’re talking about a project worth $158 million and you have to go through the details of that process… This is no small deal,” Dix said. “It just shows the extent of the commitment to investment in Fort St. James.”
Costs are shared between the province through Northern Health and the Stuart-Nechako Regional Hospital District — which will contribute $20 million. The province estimates 450 direct and 300 indirect jobs will be created during construction.
Dix argued the current NDP government is making the new hospital happen after the previous B.C. Liberals didn’t. “When they needed the hospital no one stepped up and built it,” Dix said.
“I think [Premier John Horgan] would say this as well — that the decision to proceed on this hospital was a very good decision… We need hospitals in this region to reflect healthcare in the 21st century.”
The province said the current hospital is “outdated in terms of space, functionality and technology.” Dix said it was only intended to last between 10-15 years when it opened in 1972. He said healthcare will continue to be provided there until the new one is up and running.
The new facility will have 27 beds, including 18 long-term care beds, an expanded emergency department with two treatment rooms, a trauma bay and ambulance bay. There will be a primary care centre, a laboratory and diagnostic imaging available.
Dix hopes healthcare workers will be attracted to staff the new hospital — which will be three times bigger than the current one. “People want to work in the highest quality circumstances…We’ve got to continue to meet recruitment challenges. That’s a big priority for us.”