Health Minister John Haggie said his department doesn’t have the fiscal capacity to do everything it would like to.
So when it comes repairs needed at the some 180 health-care facilities around the province what does get done comes down to needs versus wants.
A report from the CBC earlier this week listed the top 10 facilities in the province in terms of deferred maintenance costs. The total for the 10 adds up to $114.2 with Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook ranking sixth on the list with $8.6 million in deferred repair costs.
Haggie said while the number is high, the building itself is structurally sound.
He didn’t have a breakdown on the needed repairs, but said in general it’s things like a new carpet, a new coat of paint on a wall that hasn’t been painted for awhile, leaking roofs, windows that won’t shut properly and generators that don’t work.
He said once a health authority provides its list of needed repairs the department prioritizes it, looking at the things it has to fund. It then looks to the budget for any wiggle room to do more and always keeps some funds in reserve for things it cannot predict.
“The first priority is to make sure that the patients and the staff are safe,” said Haggie.
This means things like defective doorsills will be fixed to eliminate a tripping hazard.
And then it looks at critical operations to ensure operating rooms and emergency rooms have backup power, or that any wiring concerns are addressed immediately.
Beyond that, Haggie said, it’s a question of degree.
A leaky window in an unused storage room may be boarded up, but a leaky window in a patient care area has to be fixed.
The province is in the process of building a new hospital in the city, but with the new facility not slated to open until 2023, Haggie said there will be an element of maintenance that can’t be deferred at Western Memorial, but there will be things that can wait.
Haggie said his government inherited a difficult situation and it’s one that accumulated over decades.
But he sees a difference in the future for both the new hospital and the new long-term care facility that is also being built here.
Maintenance of both facilities is being built into the cost and compensation for the builds, which are happening through the public-private partnership model.
That means when the facilities are turned over to the province some 30 years from now they will have essentially brand new up to code buildings.