Hospital Corp. takes over Watson Lake shell

The Yukon government won't have to worry about converting a partially finished shell into a new hospital anymore. By April of next year, that's going to be the concern of the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

The Yukon government won’t have to worry about converting a partially finished shell into a new hospital anymore.

By April of next year, that’s going to be the concern of the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

But it’s not like the government failed Watson Lake’s health care, said Craig Tuton, chair of the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

The Department of Health and Social Services has done a “very good job” running the Watson Lake Hospital, but it “makes perfect sense” that the Yukon Hospital Corporation should take over, he said.

“We at the corporation are in the business of running hospitals.”

Originally, the Yukon government planned to construct a multi-level seniors’ care facility to be located next door to the existing hospital.

Two years in, the Yukon government halted all construction on the half-finished facility, deciding instead that it should be converted into a replacement for the town’s existing hospital, built in 1975.

The half-finished facility has stood dormant ever since.

The shell cost $2,530,000, according to government reports. However, when design and project-management costs are added, it’s more like $4.8 million.

If anything, the hospital corporation should be able to move construction ahead a bit faster.

“We’re not government; we’re able to react to situations much more quickly,” Tuton told the News in March.

But even for the Yukon Hospital Corporation, turning a half-finished, multi-level care facility into a hospital isn’t going to be easily.

The existing steel frame was not made earthquake-proof, and will require seismic retrofitting.

Constructed without a roof slope, the structure has already been subject to “water inundation” that will “likely lead to roofing failures over time,” read a technical assessment.

Hallways, doorways and elevator shafts would need to be widened.

And two years’ worth of mould on the ground floor would need to be scraped out.

All told, it will take $16,946,500 to upgrade and complete the existing structure, according to initial estimates.

Building an entirely new hospital, by contrast, would cost $21,392,800, said the assessment.

Since February, the hospital corporation has been managing the existing Watson Lake Hospital as a sort of trial run.

Throughout, staff at the hospital have remained government employees.

However, with the full takeover in April, staff will need to start working for the corporation.

“All the jobs are secure in Watson Lake,” said Tuton.

The Department of Health and Social Services will also give staff the opportunity to continue as Yukon government employees at another Yukon health facility.

When completed, the new hospital will serve 1,807 in and around Watson Lake. By 2018, that number is expected to be 2,050.

It’s become “more and more of a problem” to attract qualified doctors to Watson Lake, said a Watson Lake doctor.

A new facility would be instrumental in attracting new medical talent, he said.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com

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