Five Hills not 'sweating bullets'

Nathan Liewicki
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Released by the ministry of health on July 4, the VFA report on the province's health facilities notes $2.2 billion worth of maintenance repairrs are needed. Of that total, 89.7 million is needed in the Five Hills Health Region, including $43.5 million for the Moose Jaw Union Hospital.

VFA report recommends $43.5 in repairs to Union Hospital

The Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) is not alarmed by $89.7 million of maintenance upgrades a newly released report says it needs.

Prepared by consulting firm VFA Canada, the report – released by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health on July 4 – provides assessments on health-care facilities across the province.

NDP Associate Health Critic John Nilson contests that the government withheld the report from the public in each of the last two provincial budgets.

“I think it's crucial that the people of the province know there's money that needs to be spent in health-care structures. The government has known about it, but has hidden it away,” Nilson said in a phone call from Regina on Monday.

There are approximately 270 health facilities in the province that, according to the report, require $2.2 billion in repairs – a figure the ministry is not surprised by, despite having invested more than $1 billion in health facilities since 2007.

“It’s a big issue in a number of jurisdictions,” Pauline Rousseau, executive director of Strategy and Innovation for the ministry told the Times-Herald.

“Saskatchewan is not alone in terms of facility maintenance issues. It's an issue across Canada and in North America.”

Of the province’s 270 health facilities, 13 are located in the FHHR, but nearly half the repair costs the report notes needed in the region – $43.5 million – point to the Moose Jaw Union Hospital (MJUH).

However, Jim Allen, executive director of environmental services for the FHHR, is not worried by many of the numbers in the report, especially those regarding the MJUH.

“There isn't anything in this report that has us sweating bullets and thinking that we are going to have the walls fall around us,” said Allen.

He added that many of the numbers in the report describe repairs as “necessary but not yet in that critical category. It doesn’t make them urgent right at the moment.”

Making major repairs to plumbing or electrical issues, for example, are not made simply because something is old, as Allen noted the report sometimes infers. He explained that is because the FHHR needs to be “more responsible with the dollars that we have.”

In addition to the MJUH, there are other health facilities in Five Hills that the report notes need upgrades to fix existing deficiencies. They include: $9.8 million at Moose Jaw’s Pioneer Village, $4.5 million for the Assiniboia Union Hospital and $3.6 million at Extendicare.

“You can't take them literally,” Allen said of the figures. “You have to take them along with the maintenance history and all sorts of other information that feeds in to provide enough information to make wise decisions on how you spend the capital dollars.”

The majority of upgrades the report states are needed in the FHHR are “big ticket items.” At the MJUH, those include issues relating to the electrical system, the elevator system and plumbing.

Moreover, the sanitary sewer distribution system in the 1973 wing of the hospital is original, which has resulted in “frequent failures,” said Allen.

"Any of these recommendations we would support with other information before we'd make a decision to make a replacement,” said Allen. ”We're trying to responsibly push decisions off until the last possible moment when we seek the capital dollars to do the replacement.”

As it relates to the MJUH, this is primarily because of the new regional hospital that is about one year away from opening.

Although the MJUH has a good maintenance program, Allen noted that it is starting to get to the point where if a new hospital was not opening soon, the FHHR would have already started looking at major maintenance upgrades.

“We look very closely at the maintenance dollars we are spending on pieces of equipment and the frequency of failures, and that – along with (the report) – helps inform us of decisions we have to make about how we distribute the capital dollars that we have,” said Allen.

“Because we don't have a big pile of cash laying around.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.

 

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Small infrastructure upgrades

“Would I love a magic wand to deliver $5 or $10 million as this building is approaching 20 years of age? Sure I would.”

Unfortunately for Providence Place CEO Paul Nyhof, he understands that risk management and mitigation of the systems and processes that operate at the long-term care facility are more important.

In light of VFA Canada’s recently released report on health-care facility assessment in Saskatchewan, which notes that Providence Place requires approximately $4.86 million in maintenance repairs, Nyhof knows everything cannot be replaced overnight.

He also knows that putting off existing infrastructure deficiencies is what is needed in the short-term.

One of the items the report notes needs upgrades at Providence Place is the air conditioning system. According to Nyhof, between $40,000 and $50,000 was spent to renew components for the system.

“We invested some money into the chiller and we actually believe that the usable life is a good five to eight years remaining,” said Nyhof. “So, we didn’t feel the need to spend the approximately $1.3 million that (is) identified in the report.”

— Liewicki

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