Health
Yellowknife

Staff say Yellowknife's new hospital is 'falling apart'


Yellowknife's new hospital is too hot, too cold, and leaking water in a number of areas – causing a "significant impact on operations" and leaving staff angry and dispirited.

Employees at the hospital, speaking to Cabin Radio on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, detailed a range of serious failings. The worst problems involve waste water from bathroom blockages closing off access to important facilities.

"We moved to a hospital that's falling apart," one member of staff said.

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The new Stanton Territorial Hospital cost $350 million to build and opened in May. The territory is paying contractors $18 million annually for three decades to cover building maintenance.

In October, the CBC reported on grey water and mould at the hospital's dialysis unit alongside concerns regarding sewage backups.

This week, staff described some parts of the hospital being too warm – and others too cold – as doors and air circulation systems malfunction.

Exit doors are frosted over on the inside, a malfunctioning air intake baffle has had to be manually overridden to stop parts of the hospital becoming too hot, and the way the hospital's main entry doors are sequenced is exposing the main reception area to icy blasts from temperatures well below -30C outside. Condensation forming and melting on ductwork has become a related challenge.

Gynecology exam rooms have been closed off because of leaks coming from the floor above, one employee reported, saying this was the fifth such closure in recent weeks.

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Meanwhile, staff described "a flood" this week at the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) office at the Stanton Ambulatory Care Centre – the home of outpatient services at the new Stanton.

"I’m not joking when I tell you that it was pouring," an employee said. An internal email to staff, seen by Cabin Radio, blames the leak on a shower on the floor above – and tells staff they don't need ear protection, despite the noise of ventilation systems set up to tackle the problem.

'Extremely concerning'

In a statement to Cabin Radio on Friday, the territory's health authority acknowledged problems with temperature and water leaks throughout the hospital.

"The past week has been a challenging one," the statement read. "Building systems have been challenged to keep up and operate under the extreme cold conditions.

"As this is the first winter that the building has been operational with a full patient and staff load, both anticipated and unanticipated challenges have arisen."

The health authority said Dexterra – the contractor that manages the facility – was working hard to address all of the issues.

"Dexterra has had to take measures to adjust temperature and humidity controls in various areas and to institute manual controls over baffles to address temperature fluctuations," said the authority.

"They are also working to address door sequencing in the main entrance area and will advise whether other measures are needed to avoid cold air intrusion. Frozen exit doors have heaters applied as a temporary measure to ensure functionality, while more definitive solutions are determined."

In an unusually bluntly worded paragraph, the health authority said the water leaks were "extremely concerning ... as they are having a significant impact on our operations."

"Stanton continues to experience a number of water leaks and backups," said the health authority. "To date, the majority have been determined to be related to inappropriate materials being introduced into the sanitary drain lines. However, work is ongoing to determine whether there are infrastructure concerns that are contributing.

"There have been recent leaks in the Ambulatory Care Clinic involving the gynecology area as well as some office space in the staff area of the clinic, which have been related to blockages in areas on the floors above.

"The bathroom in the gynecology area that experienced a leak remains out of service as the specific cause remains under investigation and may be related to a design issue."

The authority said matters were now so severe that the NWT government's Department of Infrastructure was being brought in to work with contractors Dexterra and BHP. Northern Disaster Services, which specializes in fixing water damage, has also been hired.


Amendment: December 14, 14:00 MT – This article has been updated with a reference to an October CBC report regarding mould and grey water at the hospital's dialysis unit.

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