GNWT begins work on new health centre for Tulita

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The territorial government has begun the process of recruiting a company to design and build a new health centre for the Sahtu community of Tulita.

The hamlet of around 500 people is the latest focus of the territory's plan to systematically replace a number of health centres in smaller communities.

Fort Providence's new facility opened in 2015 and a health and social services centre in Fort Resolution was unveiled last year, as was a larger health centre and long-term care facility in Norman Wells.

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The territory has now begun the process of building a new centre for Tulita by issuing a request for qualifications – a first step toward choosing a contractor to make the centre a reality.

According to the request for qualifications document, the NWT government expects designing and building Tulita's new health and social services centre to cost just under $16.5 million (compared to $13.2 million for the newly opened facility in Fort Resolution).

That budget does not include some expenses such as outfitting the building with furniture and equipment.

The territory hopes to choose a winning bid by September this year.

Construction of Fort Resolution's facility took around two years. The territory says it hopes to open Tulita's building in the fall of 2021.

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Reports several years ago suggested the facility had been bumped to 2022-23 in the territorial government's financial planning.

At the time, then-Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya – now the Dene National Chief – told the CBC the present Tulita health centre had "mice running around it and broken walls and floors."

The territorial government proudly unveiled Fort Resolution's new centre in June 2018, saying the building brought together health and social services in the community for the first time.

That centre, which is wheelchair accessible, includes clinic rooms that meet current infection control standards, a family visiting room, emergency treatment and dental rooms, and three apartments to accommodate visiting staff.

This time around, the request for qualifications says Tulita's health and social services centre will be based on previous designs seen in Fort Providence and Fort Resolution – but with some improvements based on feedback.

"It will have some significant changes," states the document, "including the addition of a new day program component, changes to staff accommodation, changes to the relationship between staff work areas and treatment areas, some modifications to room sizes and detailed room requirements, and the expression of community culture in the main lobby and waiting area."

The deadline for companies to submit qualifications is April 25.