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Demolition looming for Terrace's Seven Sisters mental health facility

Terrace Standard - 2/5/2019

The Seven Sisters regional mental health residence facility is likely to be demolished to make room for the new Mills Memorial Hospital.

Located between the current Mills Memorial and the Sande Overpass on land owned the Northern Health Authority, the 20-bed facility sits within the intended site of the new Mills.

It'll be replaced by a new facility on a location not yet identified.

Details of the replacement plan are scarce but a posting on the website where provincial public sector bodies list construction and purchasing contract opportunities forecasts an expenditure of between $17 million and $18 million.

"The project is expected to be tendered within six months, based on a variety of factors including government approval," states the notice on the BC Bid website.

For now, Northern Health wants to establish a list of "experienced qualified general contractors with expertise, demonstrated experience, resources and knowledge …."

Once qualified, contractors will then be asked to bid when the construction contract is put out to tender.

The current Seven Sisters facility is just 14 years old, opening in 2005 at a cost of $2.5 million, and houses beds and services for longer stay non-acute patients.

As such it is separate from an eight-bed shorter stay residence facility in Thornhill and the 10-bed unit at the current Mills which takes in people in crisis for stabilization and treatment over shorter periods of time. All three places are meant for adults.

Andrea Palmer of the Northern Health Authority acknowledged that the Seven Sisters replacement project is within the planning sequence of the much larger new Mills Memorial project estimated to cost approximately $380 million.

"But at this stage there is nothing much more I can say," said Palmer.

"We continue to work through the [new Mills Memorial] business plan with the province and until that is approved, we really can't provide more information."

Palmer said she was also unable to indicate if the new Seven Sisters facility would also serve as a central location for the various mental health services offered by Northern Health in the Terrace area.

She said the current call for qualified contractors helps when a project is ready to go to tender.

"Bidders passing the request for qualifications (usually up to three) are then able to respond to the next step of the procurement (a tender or request for proposals) to a stipulated construction contract," she said.

Announced first by the then-BC Liberal government in the spring of 2017 and then re-announced by the current NDP government in February 2018, the new Mills is to have more beds and more surgical services than the current facility which is closing in on 60 years of age.

Palmer said a date as to when the Mills business plan would be ready is coming "soon".

Northern Health and the North West Regional Hospital District, which takes in portions of three northwestern regional districts, first began planning to replace Mills in 2012 only to be rebuffed

An intensive lobbying effort followed, resulting in the 2017 and 2018 announcements.

Based on a business plan which better defines the exact size and services the new Mills will provide being approved this year, tendering and groundbreaking is forecast for 2020 with completion in 2023-2024.

Also likely slated for demolition is the smaller building between the current Mills and the Seven Sisters facility.

It houses the area's pediatricians and is much older, built first as a residence for nurses working at Mills and in later years as a residence, complete with caretakers, for expectant mothers from smaller communities so they could be close to Mills when it came time to give birth.

 
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