Watson Lake hospital finally finished, not quite open

The expensive and much overdue Watson Lake hospital is finally open, almost. Yukon Hospital Corp. and government officials gave a public tour of the new building on Tuesday.

The expensive and much overdue Watson Lake hospital is finally open, almost.

Yukon Hospital Corp. and government officials gave a public tour of the new building on Tuesday.

“It looks like a finished building,” said hospital corp. CEO Jason Bilsky.

“We had around 250 people from the community come out to see it. The response was great. People are really proud of this building,” he said.

The building faced major construction delays and cost overruns. Unpaid subcontractors started walking off the job last winter, and the budget ballooned to $26.8 million from a $22-million original budget.

Despite the public grand opening, the hospital isn’t quite ready to accept patients, Bilsky said.

That’s because some of the major pieces like X-ray machines, diagnostic equipment and computer systems still need to be given one last check by their manufacturers to ensure they’re working properly., Bilsky said.

He also explained that if the hospital were actually open and running, the public would have been prevented from touring sensitive sites like operating rooms and the kitchens.

“We wanted to make sure the public could see the whole building, and we wouldn’t be able to do that if we were open for business,” he said.

Once all the building’s equipment is commissioned, the current staff at the old hospital will be moved over to the new building during what Bilsky said is likely to be a very intensive week-long move.

All of the current staff will retain their jobs and run the new building, Bilsky said, with the possible addition of one or two positions. All told, the new hospital will have around two dozen full-time jobs, though some of those may be shared by a couple of people working part time, Bilsky said.

“All the staff just basically moves over. It’s meant to service about the same amount of load. We haven’t yet found an engineer for the building, but we have found new custodial people to work in the building,” he said.

Bilsky said that the Dawson City hospital, which is also far behind schedule and costing taxpayers more than expected, should be open in November this year.

“It’s a little bit behind, but having said that we’re in the very finishing stages. Things such as cleaning still need to be done. I have to admit, the level of cleaning you have to go through for a building like this is huge,” he said.

The hospital corp. will have to hire professional industrial cleaners to turn the building from a construction site into a sanitized, functioning hospital. The work will be similar to the scale of cleanup that the Canada Games Centre went through after it caught fire a couple of years ago, Bilsky said.

The Dawson facility is currently fully staffed, Bilsky said. But some of those people have had to leave, saying they can’t wait any longer without work for the new building to open.

Getting them replaced is a hassle, Bilsky said, but won’t delay the opening of the building.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com