Hospital director Derek Keller, left, of the Interior Health Authority gives Williams Lake city council and staff an update on the Cariboo Memorial Hospital redevelopment project during the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, May 17. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Cariboo Memorial Hospital redevelopment project on track: IH hospital director

‘We hope in the next couple of weeks to move into the 100 per cent planning phase,’ said Derek Keller

Ninety percent of the planning phase is done for the Cariboo Memorial Hospital redevelopment project, Interior Health Authority hospital director Derek Keller told city council and staff during a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, May 17.

“We hope in the next couple of weeks to move into the 100 per cent planning phase,” Keller said, confirming Interior Health is in ongoing negotiations with the contractor, Graham Design Builders LP.

The redevelopment will be done in two phases.

In the first phase a new three storey building will be constructed that will house the emergency department, medical surgical units, maternity and pharmacy.

With the new maternity rooms, women will labour, deliver and recover all in the same room.

“That is the best practice and something that has been happening across the country,” Keller said, adding there will be five maternity rooms. “We won’t lose any with the new build, but we won’t gain any either.”

Once completed, the second phase will see the renovation of the existing hospital building, with a second floor made into an in-patient psychiatric facility. What is now the emergency room will be renovated to accommodate the ambulatory care department.

Health records will receive a renovation as well.

Keller noted with the upgrade the hospital will receive 16 new in-patient beds, bringing the current number of beds from 20 up to 36, not including six psychiatric beds, maternity beds and high-acute beds, which will be close to 50 beds total.

Once shovels go into the ground, the parking lot will be the first phase of the project.

“We do have to create more parking spaces because we will lose a significant amount with the new build. After everything is completed we will gain more parking but at this point I don’t know,” Keller said.

It is hoped the parking lot construction will begin in the fall, he added, noting for sure no work can be done until after the end of August because of the nests and eggs of birds in trees are protected during the nesting season.

Parking for construction crews could be an issue as well and economic development officer Beth Veenkamp said the lot at 560 Broadway Avenue has been secured for staging.

“There might be room for parking there,” she said.

Coun. Jason Ryll said one of his concerns is finding enough construction workers and if that could ‘derail’ the project.

While labour shortages are a reality across the province, Keller said they are working with the company who is ready when they get the green light to put shovels in the ground.

Ryll also asked if there will be a net increase of jobs in the hospital at the end of the project, to which Keller responded ‘yes.’

With an increase in bed numbers there will be more nurses, housekeeping and probably food services as well support departments, plus the in-patient psychiatric unit will have its own staffing, he explained.

In April 2021, the estimated cost of the redevelopment was $217.5 million.

Appearing by video Coun. Scott Nelson asked if the estimated cost of the project has increased due to chain supply issues and if the provincial government has given the green light on an updated amount or asked that the budget remain the same and cuts be made inside the hospital.

“I’m not aware of any government decisions on increased funding for the project if there is increased costs,” Keller said.

Mayor Cobb said the numbers won’t be finalized until the design phase is completed anyways.

READ MORE: B.C. company chosen for $217.8 million hospital redevelopment in Williams Lake

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