Costs for retro-fitting Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial hospital stand to dwarf the $182 million cost of the Deh Cho bridge, according to NWT Finance Minister Micheal Miltenberger.
“It’s being termed as a midlife retrofit, and it has been on the books for as long as Fort Smith’s hospital retrofit, so around 10 years,” said Miltenberger.
Hospital renovation costs are astronomical because before actual renovation construction can begin, all of the hospital’s essential systems must be separated to ensure controlled and sterile environments for medical staff to work and patients to be treated.
“It has taken tonnes of expert assessment, and as far as I can tell it is one of the most expensive renovations known to man,” Miltenberger told The Journal.
“They have to ensure that dust and debris don’t move between the two areas, so two separate air handling systems are needed, which is beyond costly. It is highly specialized construction, the cost per square meter is astronomical ($400 sq/ft).”
He said the standards and requirements seem to “change daily” as people become more aware of the existing systems.
Although retro-fitting costs for Stanton threaten to go sky high, Miltenberger quickly explained that the cost of building a whole new facility would be double.
“It would be more expensive to build a whole new hospital, the new facility would cost around $500 million, whereas the Stanton renovations stand to cost around $250 million,” said Miltenberger. “And that doesn’t consider the cost of acquiring land to build the new facility on.”
The retrofit of the NWT centre for health services includes plans to relocate some non-essential administration services off-site to make room for what Miltenberger calls unacceptably overcrowded treatment areas.
He said the NWT government will also need to replace the Hay River Health Centre and needs new long-term care facilities in Fort Simpson and Hay River. All that will have to come out of next year’s comparatively meager $75 million capital budget, along with new education facilities, roads and other infrastructure. That compared to a whopping $1.1 billion that was available over the last three years thanks to stimulus spending by the federal government to counter the recession, money Miltenberger said the NWT government “took full advantage of with the largest spending program in our history.”
Miltenberger predicted the Stanton retrofit, particularly its high costs, is a project that will dominate the next assembly. The final session of this assembly will last for about three weeks in August and then come to a close.