Northern Health Fort St. John Project

In April 2008, the province announced the Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa residential care project, an ambitious endeavor to build a new hospital and residential care building, which would provide modern healthcare facilities to the far reaches of northern British Columbia. After four years of planning, coordinating, construction and building, the two healthcare buildings are open for use.

Betty Morris, Chief Operating Officer for Northern Health, a key player in the project, says Northern Health provides health services to over 300 000 people in an area of over 600 000 square kilometers in northern British Columbia. Committed to providing quality health care, Northern Health also ensures their facilities are modern and up-to-date for their communities. This means investing in facility upgrades and renovations, which is what ultimately prompted the Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa project.

“This was a very important project because of the age and condition of the old facility. It was extremely difficult to keep the old facilities up and running to deliver health care. Therefore this project was needed to replace the old St. Fort John Hospital as well as two residential care facilities,” explains Morris.

The project consisted of a 15 000-square metre acute care hospital in the Fort St. John, British Columbia. The hospital includes 55 acute care beds, an ICU, maternity ward, two state-of-the-art operating rooms, an expanded emergency department and an endoscopy suite. Next to the hospital is a brand new 7500-square metre Peace Villa residential care building, equipped with 124 beds and designed to provide psychogeriatric care, special care and palliative care. The project was funded by the Peace River Regional Hospital District, the Ministry of Health and the Province of British Columbia at a cost of $301.8  million.

The project was built as a public private partnership (PPP) between Northern Health and ISL Health. Morris says there are many benefits to a PPP project. “It really ensures that there is a joint responsibility between Northern Health and the PPP partner to keep the facility maintained for the life of the relationship. So for 30 years, there is a facility-maintenance firm that provides for all the upkeep.” she explains. In other words, everything is updated to the best standard possible.

The new and improved facility provides residential care services for people who can no longer live on their own or look after themselves. In addition, the adult day away program also supports people to stay in the community by day support for patients. This means that adults who are registered for the adult day-away program can come to the facility for day-time meals, bathing, along with other services and then go back home at the end of the day.

Building a brand new health facility requires a lot of skilled planning, designing, construction, and coordination. The Fort St. John project is particularly unique because this was an opportunity to build a completely new facility on a new site. “This was an opportunity to create a new facility with all the services and supports necessary for the community,” says Morris.

One of the important phases of planning for the new facility was transition planning. Transition planning is the way to facilitate the transition of staff and equipment into the new health care facility. Part of this process is to help staff understand their new working space and workflow prior move-in day. Planning this type of transition ensures workflow is not disrupted once the new facilities are ready to be occupied. By implementing plans through discussion and role-playing, the transition process offered a way to monitor and practice over a period of time before move-in day. With thorough transition planning, staffs at the Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa were more easily able to integrate into their new workspaces.

The new Fort St. John facility is located in a region of British Columbia that is expected to grow due to the oil and gas industries. The population of northern British Columbia is expected to increase by about 21 per cent by 2028 to approximately 84 000 people. “As we planned the new hospital we incorporated flexible design so that it could be expanded as needed,” explains Morris. For example, if more space is needed for emergency visits or in the birthing centre, or if there is a need for four operating rooms instead of three, the new facility would be equipped to accommodate these changes.

The contemporary design of the facilities is also a source of pride for Morris: “We were able to create a modern facility that incorporated best practices from around the globe into the design.  In addition, we were also able to ensure the work spaces and patient flow would work in the North Peace by gathering input from staff, physicians, and the community on the design. This ensured the building would meet the needs of those that work in the facility, patients, and residents.”

Morris also says the project involved the opinions and feedback from front-line staff, physicians and local communities.

The structure itself incorporated Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building practices, such as energy conservation and sustainable and environmentally-friendly techniques.

“For new health care facilities in BC, the government expects them to be built to LEED Gold Standards, meaning that you had to do things such as reclaim heat from one area and use it for another, and implement water conservation and reuse plans. Our builders and designers were experienced in designing buildings that meet the LEED Gold standards,” says Morris.

 The new facilities will also serve as a teaching hospital to support the University of Northern BC Northern Medical Program as well as other health professional students.

Completed within budget and ahead of schedule, the new Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa are welcome additions to the community, continuing to deliver quality services to an ever-evolving region. With its state-of-the-art facilities and community-centered services, the Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa project is certainly sets an example for Canadian healthcare.