The Bulkley Valley District Hospital is now officially on Northern Health’s radar to be replaced.
This comes after Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach made a motion at the last Northwest Regional Hospital Board meeting to make the hospital next in line to be replaced. He said it was important to him to make the motion because things have always been talked about but nothing has ever been put in writing.
“My motion was a bit of a formality. There is a ton of planning that needs to be done before we see a new hospital in Smithers, including the replacement of Mills Memorial [in Terrace] but master planning will take place this fall and that is the first step in the long process of hospital replacement.”
The rest of the board unanimously voted in favour of his motion.
“It is a priority of the hospital district, which is made up of local governments,” he added.
“Our motion does not indicate the provincial government’s priority. Obviously, hospital replacements are decisions of the Province. We will as a board articulate our priorities to Northern Health and the ministry [of health] but the order in which hospitals get replaced is a ministry’s decision.”
Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins confirmed that Northern Health will begin a master planning process in Smithers later this year.
“Master plan work would eventually form the basis for development of a concept plan, which (in general) would outline things like whether renovation, new construction or replacement is the best approach for a given facility,” she said in an email to The Interior News.
“In terms of the process, concept plans are submitted to government for approval to proceed to the business planning stage, and (with additional approvals and funding in place) eventually procurement and construction.”
Recently, the maternity ward has been renovated, a CT scanner is going in and a digital mammography machine has been installed at BVDH.
Bachrach added the facility continues to meets the needs as a community, for now.
“It is an older hospital, it has seen a lot of upgrades and renovations over the years but it does also have deficiencies. Looking down the road, it will need replacing. It is a long-term process and we want to start the process before the situation becomes more critical. We need to plan in advance and make sure we are able to continue to see the needs of the community in the future,” he said.
Despite a new hospital in Smithers being a far away goal at this point, Bachrach is excited about the Mills Memorial Hospital project.
“That is a hospital replacement that affects Smithers in a big way. A lot of the services that will be available in the new facility will be used by Bulkley Valley residents and with it being a level 3 trauma centre, it is an important facility for the whole Northwest. It will improve outcomes for everyone in the region,” he said.
The original request for a new hospital in Terrace was made in 2010. In 2012, master planning got underway with concept planning starting in 2013. A concept plan was first received by government in April 2014. An updated concept plan was submitted to the provincial government in October 2017. A business plan phase was announced in February and is now underway to finalize details, which takes approximately 12 to 18 months.