People in the North Cariboo will have better access to health care at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital as construction completes on a new emergency department and intensive care unit (ICU).
The new addition was built on the territory of the Lhtako Dene Nation and will open on April 14, 2023. The provincial government invested $27-million in the project through Northern Health and the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District.
“The redeveloped G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital will have more space and the latest technology, so people can get the care when they need it in a modern environment,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The hospital has served the region well for more than 60 years and, with these upgrades, it will continue to offer high-quality care for decades to come.”
The new emergency department and ICU are bigger and are located together, making it easier for patients and staff to move around. The emergency department has a triage area, two exam rooms, a two-bay trauma and resuscitation room, an isolation and exam area, a psychiatric observation room, and an ambulance garage. The ICU has five treatment spaces, instead of the previous four, and there is also a private waiting area for families.
“This new emergency department and intensive care unit will help meet the needs of a growing region as more people look to access care close to home,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health.
Colleen Nyce, board chair, Northern Health, said “I am happy that the emergency room and ICU addition at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital is now officially open to the public. This modern and highly improved addition will be a great benefit to patients, their families and especially our staff, who see measurable positive impacts to their workflow and efficiencies.”
Mary Sjostrom, vice-chair, Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District, said: “We appreciate all the partners working together to improve our emergency department and ICU facilities in the North Cariboo. We are a proud contributor to this project and celebrate the completion of the upgrades that will serve our growing community and region for years to come.”
The provincial government and Northern Health worked collaboratively with neighbouring Indigenous communities in the planning process, including the Lhtako Dene Nation, Nazko First Nation, ?Esdilagh First Nation and Lhoosk’uz Dene First Nation, recognizing the history and cultural significance of the area. In recognition of the territory of the Lhtako Dene Nation and the languages used in the region, the new emergency department and ICU have a companion name:
Deni Belh ?Ats’enanx
The People are Healing
The first line is Carrier (Dakelh) language, and the second line is Chilcotin language.
The City of Quesnel was also an instrumental partner in bringing the project to completion, contributing by supporting traffic flow, control and alternate parking options around the project.
Opened in 1955, G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital currently operates 44 in-patient beds and also provides emergency care, lab services, diagnostic imaging, mental health and addictions supports, and chronic disease management.
Dix couldn’t attend, but happy for Quesnel and area
“This is great news, the completment of construction. People have been talking about this for a long time, and to be delivering and to be opening is a really exciting thing,” the minister of health told The Observer the day the new facility opened its doors. He wished he could be there in person but had a scheduling conflict and said these sorts of projects aren’t static items to unveil when convenient, they are instantly needed workspaces, “so the last thing anyone wants is to delay anything that important just for a politician to be there.”
He listed other northern B.C. healthcare infrastructure check-marks as well, on the current government’s to-do list, like projects in Terrace, Fort St. James, Dawson Creek, Prince George, and others.
“It’s unprecedented investment in Northern Health,” he said.
There were construction delays in getting the G.R. Baker addition completed, but when considering the pandemic’s effects on infrastructure projects of all sorts, Dix said, “it’s a real tribute” to those involved that the delays were so minimal under the circumstances.
“I’ve been to G.R. Baker Hospital a number of times as minister and as an MLA before that, and it has been needed for a decade or more, before we got going, so to have it complete is really exciting, and it will really make a difference, I would argue, in our ongoing efforts to recruit in Quesnel and region, just as the (newly commenced redevelopment project for Cariboo Memorial Hospital) Williams Lake project will do the same. They are not the sole answer, but having better places for healthcare professionals to work is part of the answer.”
He added that recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals was a concern he knew needed addressing, and felt those changes were underway.
“The changes we’ve made with the Health Human Resources Plan we put in place in September, 70 actions, many of them focused on rural B.C., and Indigenous communities with recruitment there, and the agreement with doctors which is historic in terms of family practice and that is key to hospitals such as G.R. Baker. The fee-for-service system clearly wasn’t working anymore.”