A long-awaited promise for a new hospital facility is finally closer to becoming reality, as Premier Scott Moe, Health Minister Jim Reiter, along with Environment Minister and MLA Dustin Duncan, unveiled the selected final site for the coming facility on Friday.
The need for a replacement of the Weyburn General Hospital has been apparent for many years, and the previous health district and community at large has been asking for this for a long time, with plans drawn up and considered and reconsidered again.
The word came down at the edge of an empty field north of Fifth Avenue North, between Fifth Street and Hamilton Street, where an integrated 35-bed health care facility will be built and opened by 2023 on a 20-acre parcel.
The location was a decision by cabinet and by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, after considering a long list of criteria, such as accessability, zoning requirements and other factors.
While many in the community are happy and applaud this concept of an integrated facility finally on the way, some questions have been raised about how practical the location will actually be.
In a year’s time, in September of 2021, the Legacy Park Elementary School will open on Fifth Street, and over on King Street is the Weyburn Comprehensive School. Queen Elizabeth School will be closed and the students will be located at Legacy Park — but the concern is, at both the start and close of each school day, the traffic congestion on both Fifth and King Streets is going to be heavy.
What will happen if an emergency arises, and EMS (which will be located at the new hospital site) has to get out, say to an accident or to a medical emergency elsewhere in the city or the area?
The hospital site will have access to Highway 13 (First Avenue), which goes east-west, and out to Highway 39, plus Highway 35 — but going south through the large school zones could be hazardous, depending on the time.
The concept of centralizing health services is a very good one, as acute care, mental health and primary care will all be located at the new facility, along with EMS. A new helipad will be a part of the facility also, to improve access by the STARS helicopter in the event a patient needs to be airlifted to a major centre like Regina.
As with most projects of any complexity, there are aspects that need tweaking or working out. With the tender not due to go out until the new year, there is still time for officials to consider ways to deal with the issues that will come up.
There is no doubt this new facility is needed and wanted, so taking the time and care to make sure concerns are addressed is highly important.