NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. – It’s a massive rebuild, years in the making. Tucked in off Highway 16, a new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford (SHNB) is beginning to take shape. In the years to come the psychiatric facility will be a cornerstone of mental health services not only for the region but the province, say officials.
On Tuesday, the public got its first glimpse of the new site, fittingly scheduled to coincide with National Mental Health Week. A barbecue on the current hospital grounds followed.
As it stands right now the hospital provides care for up to 156 patients including 42-year-old Carmelle Carlton, who comes here when her world falls apart. She suffers from schizophrenia and has stayed at the facility several times since 2009. She was diagnosed in 2000.
Her bedroom is a small area in the corner of the room. It has a single bed with a few shelves, drawers and a counter to call her own. Carlton shares the room with four other patients.
“Everyone makes noise at night so it’s hard to sleep,” said Carlton.
“It’s a little bit depressing, it doesn’t feel like I’m getting the proper mental health care that I need because my surroundings are limited.”
The building is cramped and crowded, with halls that narrow and signage for rooms in an extremely outdated font. The Saskatchewan Hospital was built over a century ago and it’s wear and tear shows.
Now, dreams of a new facility are becoming a reality as work continues at a site just west of the existing hospital. It is scheduled to be complete by 2018 and was designed by both staff and patients, some whom have been cared for here for the last 40 years.
“What they want is very, very simple; it is more natural light, more privacy thus the individual rooms, more bathrooms and better temperature control because this old building doesn’t have very good temperature control,” said Linda Shynkaruk, director of SHNB.
You can click here for a look at renderings of the new hospital.
On hand at Tuesday’s announcement was rural and remote health minister Greg Ottenbreit.
So just how big will the new facility be? The provincial government is investing $407 million, think the CFL.
“The overall footprint is about two-and-a-half,” said Matt Dekkers, Access Prairies Partnership (APP) board member and Graham vice-president.
“If you think about it, if you stack that twice, we’re getting close to just under five CFL football fields.”
Construction on the structure began last September and so far the project is on budget and on schedule.
The new hospital will have 284 beds, with 188 replacing the current 156-bed rehabilitation hospital. Ninety-six other rooms will be dedicated to a secured unit for female and male offenders living with mental health issues.
“I want patients to feel welcome, I want patients to feel safe,” said Shynkaruk.
“They have the right to seek treatment in a beautiful calming, home-like environment.”
And officials say it will be a serene space coupled with a caring staff to help these patients better prepare for their journey outside these grounds.