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Hospital work to start next month

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Following a start-up meeting with contractors, engineers, and hospital staff here Thursday, the $12.2-million Phase IV renovations at La Verendrye hospital should be underway next month.

But the project isn’t going to be without its inconveniences to staff and patients alike, Wayne Woods, CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., warned during a press conference last Friday.

The first step in the extensive renovations, which are expected to take about two years, will be to build a new parking lot to the southeast of the hospital—the site of the former Riverside Community Counselling Services building.

“We’re really going to be strapped for parking,” admitted Woods, adding staff will be required to park behind the hospital while parking in front of the hospital will be restricted to those patients who are “non-ambulatory” (i.e., those who can’t move well on their own).

Another obstacle is how to keep on functioning as a health care facility while the work is going on. The answer, said Ed Cousineau, Riverside’s manager of engineering and Phase IV project manager, is to do it in phases.

“The biggest problem with this job is we have existing buildings. It would be nice to build a new hospital, of course, but. . . .” noted Cousineau.

“The size of the building hasn’t grown, but the services the hospital provides have,” he added, citing the new dialysis unit as one example.

Cousineau said some programs at La Verendrye currently don’t meet the space requirements for the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, but this all will change once the renovations and expansion are complete.

He mentioned there’s 37 internal moves planned during the renovations, as departments will be shifted around temporarily to make way so their permanent locales can be upgraded.

“We’ve been planning, we knew it was coming. But once the paper gets signed, it’s like, ‘Uh oh,”’ chuckled Cousineau. “But really, we know the building so well by now, we’ll get it right.

“We really tried to streamline this job. We learned a lot from [building the hospital in] Rainy River, a lot from Emo. Hopefully, we’ll learn a lot from this,” he added.

Teresa Hazel, Riverside’s communications director, noted part of the problem of moving services from area to another is the necessity of inspections after each move.

“Infection control is a big portion of this job,” she said.

“We are very aware it’s going to be a headache. There will be some inconveniences for the staff and public,” Hazel added. “But I think the long-term gain is to going to outweigh the short-term pain.”

Riverside hopes to alleviate the “inconveniences” somewhat, with frequent communication not only with staff, but with the public, and hope to have regular reports in the Times on any changes in parking, location of medical services within the hospital, etc.

Hazel said staff are anxious to get the changes over with, and, like the staff at the Emo and Rainy River health centres which were rebuilt in recent years, they feel they’ll be well worth it in the end.

The Phase IV renovations will include new emergency rooms, waiting rooms, operating rooms, labs, and an X-ray department.

The expansion also will include re-locating the dialysis unit, having a specific area for chemotherapy, and possibly getting a computerized tomography (CT) imaging unit, which has the ability to image a combination of soft tissue, bone, and blood vessels.

Cousineau also said the hospital will have a new electrical system and be compatible with digital technology, which is becoming more and more a part of modern health care.

“We’re really looking to build this for the future,” he noted.

Woods noted the renovated hospital also will feature much tighter security—a system they’ve already started to work on with all staff wearing ID badges.

As reported earlier this month, $12.2-million contract was awarded to Penn-Co Construction Co., which, in turn, has hired subcontractors Vanesky-Pouru Electrical Ltd. (electrical) and E.S. Fox Ltd. (mechanical).

Woods noted the original price tag was closer to $10 million several years ago, but since has grown as more and more cost—including some in response to demands from the ministry—became evident.

As such, the funding both from the provincial government and the $3.5 million raised by the Riverside Foundation for Health Care’s “Care Close to Home” campaign, were based on that $10-million figure, said both Woods and Hazel, who also is the director for the Riverside Foundation for Health Care.

Hazel stressed that means more local fundraising will be in order as the Phase IV work goes on because current funding in place “really just covers the bricks and mortar,” she remarked.

“Starting off, we’re $2.2 million behind the eight-ball. We have some reserves to tap into, but at the end of he day, we’ll need more funds,” said Woods.

Hazel noted equipment such as the CT scan costs $1.5 million, and if the hospital wants to provide yet more medical services close to district residents, the Foundation will need the community’s support.

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