On a sunny, but windy September day in 2020, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, along with then-Minister of Health Jim Reiter and Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan, Weyburn Mayor Marcel Roy, members of the Weyburn and District Hospital Foundation, and other dignitaries, gathered in a field along 5th Avenue North in Weyburn. They were there for the announcement of the construction of the new hospital in Weyburn, something which was years in the making. The announcement, which had the entire community buzzing, was that work was scheduled to start in 2021, with the hospital to be up and running in 2023, replacing the aging Weyburn General Hospital.
“Weyburn will have a beautiful new 35-bed facility, consolidating our acute care services with mental health and inpatient services,” Moe stated during the announcement on September 4th, 2020. “It will also be home to consolidated public health, primary health as well as our EMS services including a helipad that will enable STARS air ambulance to move critically ill patients to and from the new hospital.”
Now, after years of planning, tendering, and more, preparations are now underway at the site of the hospital, nearly two years later than originally announced.
Miguel Morrissette is the Assistant Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Design and Delivery with the Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement. He explained there were a number of factors that caused the delay in the hospital being built.
“The COVID pandemic caused some time-lapse as well, but we do have unforeseen market forces that are adjusting costs, adjusting our supply chain, et cetera, so a number of market forces are behind it,” Morrissette explained. “We’re quite happy that we’re starting the work here in 2023; we’re expecting to be done later in 2025, so late 2025, so at the end of the day we’re happy that we’re getting started here.”
In November of 2022, it was announced that Saskatoon-based Wright Construction will be the team that will be designing and building the new hospital. The process was a two-stage one, with a Request for Qualifications first, and then two teams selected for a Request for Proposal, with Wright ultimately being awarded the contract.
Wright Construction is also familiar with working in Weyburn. They were the team behind the construction of Legacy Park Elementary School in Weyburn and the building of the Credit Union Spark Centre.
One of the concerns voiced when the hospital was officially announced in 2020 was the number of beds. The planning for the new hospital in Weyburn called for 25 acute care beds and 10 mental health beds. This is down from the total number of beds at the Weyburn General Hospital, but the decision was made based on capacity and staffing.
Currently, the hospital in Weyburn is staffed for 25 acute care beds, while there are a total of 40 beds. This is due to capacity levels. Right now, Weyburn generally has around 16 to 19 beds occupied at any given time.
“Data was used to project the services for Weyburn General Hospital and the 25 beds for the acute care side and the ten beds for the mental health side did align with both the current and projected service levels now and well into the future,” added Chris Rhinelander with the provincial Ministry of Health.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority also addressed some of the concerns about a reduction in the services offered at the new hospital. When it was originally announced, there was contemplation about the inclusion of some of the community health services around Weyburn. Since the planning moved forward, though, the decision was made to focus on the acute care services that would be delivered at the hospital, along with the mental health services.
“With the new build, we’re actually looking at maintaining the community primary healthcare services that are in our current building, so those will all be included in the new build and the remaining services that were located outside of the acute care hospital currently will remain, in a consolidated way, out within the community,” explained Jacqui Kennett-Peppler with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “We are doing some space planning with primary health currently to ensure that the programs that are remaining outside the acute care hospital are appropriately placed and connected within the community.”
With the construction expected to last until the later months of 2025, it means the Weyburn General Hospital will continue to be used for acute care. When the new hospital opens, though, what will be the future of WGH? Rhinelander confirmed that once things shift over to the new hospital, the current hospital will be demolished.
The construction is expected to start in the coming days, and Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan hinted that more will be officially announced in the provincial budget, which is scheduled to be released on Wednesday.