Premier stoutly defends Dawson’s new hospital
The project has been beset with problems from its inception four years ago to its completion over the last week.
Photo by Dan Davidson
SOAKING IN THE NEW DIGS – Some of the crowd are seen gathered Saturday in the foyer of the Dawson City Community Hospital and Health Services Facility. Maureen Turner, described as ʻthe driving force behind this project,ʼ is seen in the lower right corner of the photo (top). BRACING FOR BUSINESS – The Dawson City Community Hospital and Health Services Facility will open for business at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
DAWSON CITY – The project has been beset with problems from its inception four years ago to its completion over the last week.
The planning process, the tendering, the site, the mode of operation, the name and the siding have all been issues.
The original contractor, Dowland Contracting Ltd., defaulted on the project, and it had to be completed by TSL Contractors.
It’s many months late opening, and it’s not yet known exactly what the final bill for the building will be.
Most of those issues, however, were set aside Saturday morning when at least 100 people gathered in the new Dawson hospital to celebrate its opening and tour the facility before it opens for its first full day of operations on Wednesday.
Officially named the rather unwieldy Dawson City Community Hospital and Health Services Facility, it’s hard to say just what locals will end up calling it.
After all, the centre it’s replacing has generally been known as the nursing station, although it had a couple of different names when it was run by the federal government and two additional names are still visible on the sign out front of the building.
The annual Christmas open house there was turned into a farewell party on the day before the new building was launched.
Premier Darrell Pasloski and Health Minister Doug Graham, along with a number of officials, arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday and were taken on a private tour of the building before the crowd and the media arrived.
By 10 a.m., the foyer outside the new medical clinic pharmacy was crowded; the chairs were full, and people were lining up at the back of the room by the big windows and around the walls.
On the north wall of the foyer was a mockup of the display that will be mounted to honour the memory of Father Judge, the Jesuit priest who created Dawson’s first hospital back in the Gold Rush days.
His portrait, which has been in the old Dawson Health Centre for years, had already been relocated for the event.
The building has been constructed by and will be under the management of the Yukon Hospital Corp., joining Whitehorse General and the Watson Lake Community Hospital under the YHC umbrella.
Veteran registered nurse Vivian Painter, who spent several summers working as a nurse here some years ago, is delighted to be back now as the facility administrator.
The formal part of the event began with greetings from Jason Bilsky, the YHC’s CEO , who introduced the dignitaries and guided the program for the morning.
Pasloski began the speeches by summarizing some of the facilities which are new to this building.
The hospital, located on the main floor, consists of six in-patient rooms, a fully equipped emergency room, and state-of-the-art diagnostics including x-ray and a laboratory. It will be open seven days a week and staffed 24 hours around the clock.
Services continuing from the old building include the Medical Clinic and Pharmacy on the ground floor, and Dawson Community Health Centre programs (home care and public health) on the second floor, along with rooms to house visiting mental health and hearing service professionals and the eventual relocation of the visiting dentist.
The premier spent a good deal of his speech defending the decision to build this facility. He extended thanks to two former MLAs – Peter Jenkins and Steve Nordick – for championing the project.
“I feel tremendous pride looking at this building, and I know that Dawson people will also feel a great pride in this building,” Pasloski said.
“This hospital is good for Dawson City and it’s also good for Yukon.
“We’ve had to continue to defend the construction of this building time and again in the media and also on the floor of the legislature. What I say to those people is, ‘Come to Dawson. Ask the people if they need a hospital.’
“For our government, there was only one guiding principle: to give the people of Dawson City access to high-quality health care close to home, now and for the future.”
Just because people in rural Yukon live in some degree of isolation from the Canadian mainstream is no reason, he said, why they should not have first-rate facilities.
Graham took a different tack in his speech, preferring to pay tribute to Father William Judge, the founder of health care services in Dawson City.
Graham presented the Jesuit priest’s history and accomplishments, including the building of St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Today is a day of celebration, and I think Father Judge would be really astonished at the tremendous facility that’s been built here,” Graham said.
“I appreciate the fact that the Yukon Hospital Corporation will be establishing a memorial on the wall there to Father Judge, who was really the Saint of Dawson City.”
Craig Tuton, chair of the YHCs board of trustees, was effusive in his thanks to Don Smith of TSL for stepping in to finish the project after Dowland defaulted.
He also had high praise for the YHC’s Maureen Turner, whom he described as “the driving force behind this project.
“It took a little longer than we originally expected,” he said, with reference to two previously announced opening dates, “but we’re here today, a testament that all things are possible.
“Once you have an opportunity to walk through this facility, you’ll be as equally proud as we are at the corporation,” Tuton said.
“Having acute care in Yukon for Yukoners means a lot. As the premier mentioned, it’s the goal of the hospital corporation to continue to work to bring more and more care to Yukon so we don’t have to fly our parents and our youth and our spouses to the south to receive services.”
Following the speeches, blessings were offered by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Doris Roberts, Anglican priest Rev. Laurie Munro and Roman Catholic priest Fr. Ernest Emeodie.
The Han Singers offered The Welcome Song.
Oddly, neither Klondike MLA Sandy Silver nor any member of Dawson’s town council were invited to make public comments during the ceremony.
Refreshments were provided for those in attendance, and complete tours of the facility were conducted for the next hour or so.