After seemingly endless construction, the new wing of the Fort Smith Health Centre will finally be opened to the public later this month.
NWT Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu toured the site Thursday morning and was impressed with the new wing. “It’ll modernize the health centre in an important way,” he said.
The building’s newly constructed west wing, scheduled to open the third week of September, will provide better emergency care, a new dialysis unit and improved midwifery resources in addition to a new and better-equipped lab, according to the Fort Smith Health and Social Services authority (FSHSS).
FSHSS CEO Robert Tordiff said he is pleased with progress made so far, but explained this is only the first of three phases of construction and renovation.
“It’s a midlife retrofit. We’re trying to provide a building that is more conducive to the services we need to provide today,” he said. “It means updated technology, and the design itself is geared towards more efficient work flow as well as more efficient flow of the public as they seek services.”
Beaulieu and Tordiff agree that a key goal of the new wing is reducing medical transportation and increasing the number and quality of services provided to the community. According to Tordiff, this will help stabilize how health care needs are met in Fort Smith and, as a result, reassure patients.
“I think the fact that they now have two full time doctors will change things,” said Beaulieu. “Whether the centre gets renovated or not, the presence of doctors will have a positive impact on health travel between here and Yellowknife.”
Although two doctors committing to stay for at least three years last June greatly improved access to higher levels of care, two more full time doctors are needed in addition to nurse practitioners, Beaulieu indicated.
According to Beaulieu, 45 per cent of the population of the Northwest Territories doesn’t have immediate access to medical care. Though wait times in other places in Canada can be lengthy, he said, those difficulties are eased by the fact that they have doctors on the ground.
“Some places in the NWT, there is just no access and no doctors, and no possibility that there ever will be doctors,” he said. “Hopefully, the new wing will attract other doctors as well. Health care is one of the most critical needs, and I think when you have a good infrastructure and facility to come to, overall, the community feels more secure.”