The main entrance to Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake is back open after extreme cold weather burst pipes and froze doors, closing three public entrances and curtailing some services on the weekend. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Cariboo Memorial Hospital on the mend after cold weather wreaks havoc on old building

Hospital services returned to normal Monday

While all services have resumed at Cariboo Memorial Hospital, it’s clear the building itself is a little worse for wear after weathering last week’s extreme cold snap which burst water pipes and froze the main doors.

Dialysis and lab outpatient services were cancelled on the weekend and the public was asked to limit visitations due to the ongoing challenges caused by sustained -30C temperatures for days in the city. The water was shut off to the hospital Friday night while maintenance staff tried to isolate leaks, leaving staff to transport water from nearby Deni House.

The main entrance, which was the first entrance to be shut down due to problems caused by the cold weather, is now open, although visitors to the hospital have to find their way through plastic strips hanging in front of the doors, presumably to keep the cold out when the sliding doors open.

Public entrances for renal services and the emergency department remain closed Monday due to the burst water pipes and flood restoration vehicles are parked at the side of the hospital.

Read More: Extreme cold bursts water pipe, closes emergency and main entrance to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

Efforts to get water back on at Cariboo Memorial Hospital were successful Sunday.

Lisa Zetes-Zanatta, executive director, rural acute and community programs Thompson Cariboo, said she could not be happier with the efforts of the hospital staff during the emergency.

“The response of the staff actually prevented this from being a much worse situation,” Zetes-Zanatta said.

“After the forest fires, and working in an incident command structure for as long as they did, you can absolutely see the training that they went through in managing emergencies because literally in a half hour the water was shut off, the flooding was being contained, the emergency operations were set up and a different entrance was marked and utilized to ensure patients weren’t walking where it had flooded and in the cold and turning it to ice.”

Zetes-Zanatta said she appreciates the many long days staff and contractors put in during the emergency, adding she couldn’t be happier with the response.

“It doesn’t get better than this, and I’ve been doing this for a long time. The team (at CMH) is second to none.”

In a series of statements made during the challenges, Interior Health said they were appreciative of the dedication of hospital staff.

“We would like to thank staff and contractors who have done amazing work over the last few days to keep operations running and get services back online. We” stated an IH spokesperson. “Thank you!”

Last week Interior Health requested funding to retrofit the boiler and chiller system at Cariboo Memorial Hospital. The upgrade will cost $1.4 million, of which the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District (CCRHD) portion would be $547,000.

Read More: HAPHAZARD HISTORY: Hospital brings life to budding community

James Kinakin, IH director of business support, told the board the retrofit could not wait until the hospital’s planned redevelopment, of which phase one is set to start in 2021, with work on the new addition expected to finish in 2023. Phase two renovations to the current hospital are expected to be complete in 2025.

CMH Redevelopment is a $217.8-million project being funded by the provincial government, Interior Health and the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District.

– With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski, Williams Lake Tribune


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