An image from Google Maps shows site initially proposed for Hay River’s new long-term care home circled in orange.
Hay River’s new long-term care home project is once again on hold as the territorial government searches for a location less prone to the impacts of flooding.
The care home was originally planned to be built where the old HH Williams Memorial Hospital stands and was slated to open in 2023, before construction costs increased and the 2022 flood happened.
While the old hospital building is being demolished this year, Hay River’s historic flooding this spring showed the GNWT the location is not ideal for a new build.
While the flood didn’t damage Woodland Manor, the current long-term care home located next to the old hospital, the Manor did loose water and sewer services and all of the residents had to be evacuated, showing building another long-term care centre next door would be subject to the same risks.
In the legislature on Wednesday, Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson suggested health minister Julie Green’s department look at taking mitigation measures that would allow the build to proceed in the old hospital’s location, such as elevating roads around the building to help protect it from flooding.
But Green said this wouldn’t ensure essential services would remain operational in event of another major flood. Her department is now waiting on new flood maps to be created using 2022 flood data, which will identify safer areas in town to build.
“The bottom line here is that if the building is not insurable, it can’t be built in that location,” said Green.
The health minister said infrastructure staff on the project have already met with the Town of Hay River to discuss alternative sites for the care home.
“The leading contender is a site called Sun Dog which is adjacent to the new health centre which did not flood in the spring,” Green said.
Hay River’s new long-term care home was also delayed in 2020, when skyrocketing construction costs increased the cost of the project by millions of dollars. The original cost of the building the facility was based on an estimate from 2015.
The long-term care home was also initially supposed to have 48 beds, but that number was reduced to 24 beds in 2021 when the GNWT was able to use new data to better project the number of beds needed in the community.
How today’s contruction costs, a new location, and a reduced number of beds will impact the cost of the project is unclear – but in the meantime the project’s completion date has been pushed back at least five years.
“To find out that the extended care facility identified for Hay River has been delayed to 2027/2028 came as a great disappointment not only to me but to the residents of Hay River and to those persons and families in need of the facility for loved ones,” said Simpson.
“The logic used to delay construction, although reasonable, fails to account for the urgent need of those beds and services for the community,” he said.