A multi-million dollar project upgrade at G.R. Baker Hospital will be a welcome sight for patients, staff and physicians once completed, said Daryl Petsul, Northern Health’s Quesnel Health Services administrator.
Slated to go out to tender in the near future with construction hopefully getting underway by August, plans include a new $27 million emergency room and intensive care unit, and an $8.2 million major kitchen renovation.
As the QHSA, Petsul is responsible for all Northern Health services within the community including G.R. Baker Hospital, Dunrovin Park Lodge, Westside Mental Health, as well as working with other health service agencies.
Petsul’s office is situated at G.R. Baker Hospital and, having worked in health care for roughly 20 years, said the upgrades and renovations will help bring the hospital into the 21st century and are in dire need.
The current ICU and ER, he said, are spaces designed well over 30 years ago.
“Not only did we have different standards for hospital services in Canada back then, but we were faced with a different population in terms of people we served,” Petsul said. “Fast forward 35 years, give or take, and we’re finding that the space isn’t adequate to provide the type of care we would like to provide.”
He noted the most common complaints from patients and the public include a lack of privacy in the emergency department, crowded waiting rooms and cramped spaces in the emergency department.
For staff and physicians, he said having one co-located emergency room and intensive care unit located on the first floor will be a welcomed change.
“Again, the ICU is from a different era and located on the third floor — the current ER is on the first floor,” he said. “Both of these are considered critical care areas, so having them, with the new build, co-located immediately adjacent to each other is huge.”
The ICU portion of the new construction will see more patient care rooms — up to five from the current four — each with a private washroom, as well as an anteroom and dictation room, for added, secure space.
“All of these rooms will be what’s called negative pressure air flow, so air in these rooms will be vented outside, which is beneficial to patients with certain types of illnesses,” he said.
There will also be a new nourishment room in the ICU to provide patients with snacks and food.
“Just having it on the first floor will be much more convenient for our X-ray and lab departments because they’re often going up to the ICU on the third floor, through elevators, lugging around heavy equipment,” he said.
“The other thing is having the ICU next to the emergency department means critically ill patients coming in can go right next door to ICU — they don’t need to go up through elevators, which is much nicer for patients, staff and physicians.”
The ER, itself, will have a fast track, or streaming area, so less ill patients who present themselves to emergency can be treated and seen in a chair without having to wait in a crowded waiting room for a stretcher.
There will also be a dedicated decontamination area as an added safety feature, along with a dedicated observation area, quiet area and family room. There will also be two trauma rooms, up from one, currently.
“The whole space is ergonomically designed much more efficiently than the current one, so much less distance travelling for doctors and patients,” Petsul said.
All of this, he noted, comes with much more updated, specialized, current equipment.
“Medical technology changes quickly and we’re going to have a lot of state-of-the-art equipment with this build,” Petsul said. “It will definitely be for the benefit of the people we serve, the public, but also enable staff and physicians’ jobs to be easier and, in turn, help with recruitment and retention of staff and physicians.”
Outside the building, a new parking area, with more spaces, will be constructed for the public and staff, gaining roughly 15 new parking stalls.
A new ambulance garage will also be built.
“Currently the ambulance pulls up to the door and, if it’s in inclement weather, patients are taken out whether it’s raining or snowing,” he said.
“With the new build we will have a heated, protected garage to unload patients and, obviously, this is better for patient comfort and privacy, as well.”
As for the kitchen renovations and upgrade, Petsul said, again, the equipment dates back decades.
“There were different times, different standards and different equipment,” he said. “It’s a very old and cramped work space and we’re seeing some potential failings of some of the systems currently because of its age.”
The new kitchen will also take advantage of the Cariboo Regional District’s agriculture innovation initiative in order to utilize locally-grown food.
When construction begins on the new addition to the ICU/ER, Petsul said it will extend out to the north from the current emergency department entrance and will move out into the current parking lot, which will be moved to its new location.
“I’m absolutely excited. We’re all excited,” he said.
“It’s going to greatly improve services for our community in the areas of critical care and, address the most pressing and common concerns from the public and, at the same time, help with recruitment and retention of staff and physicians.”
The early works phase has already been completed, which included the moving of underground sanitary lines and other supply lines.
“We don’t have an exact time line, but I’m understanding once building is started it will take anywhere from about 14 to 18 months to complete the project,” he said.
“When it’s completed we’re going to see some very happy staff and physicians and be able to provide the best care we can to the public.”