Esterhazy in need of replacing old hospital

June 22, 2022, 8:49 pm
by Sierra D’Souza Butts Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Mayor of Esterhazy, Grant Forster, said the town has been raising money for a new hospital for over 10 years and is waiting for the provincial government’s support for the project.

Esterhazy mayor, Grant Forster, said the town is in need of a new hospital due to their current hospital building being in bad shape
“It’s in such a state that you never know what’s going to be working and what’s not going to be working,” said Forster.

The community has been fundraising for a new hospital for a decade and has raised $10 million, but is waiting for the provincial government to approve a new facility.

Forster said the renovations for St. Anthony’s Hospital, would cost more than it would to build a new facility from scratch.

“The state of the building itself is falling apart, it’s painfully lacking in the way that it’s built. The doors aren’t wide enough for wheelchairs, it’s full of asbestos insulation and it just needs so much work to be brought back up to a state where it’s usable that the cost to do that, is close becoming close to the cost of a new facility,” he said.

“A 60 year old building doesn’t make a lot of sense to renovate, especially when you need to modernize it as much as you do for a hospital. It would need absolutely everything in terms of infrastructure and I would say the equipment (used in the hospital) is still functional although the X-ray is being replaced between the fundraising raised by the Charity Golf tournament and other donations.”

“Essentially the hospital’s at the point where something has to be done, maintenance is no longer an option.”

Forster said in order for the Government of Saskatchewan to fund the remaining amount to build the hospital, the town of Esterhazy had to raise a certain portion for its cost, which they have.

“As a community we’ve been raising money for at least 10 plus years now, just to replace the facility,” he said.

“We’ve raised as a community, what we believe to be our commitment, and that’s 20 per cent of the capital cost of the facility.”

“We’ve raised and have commitments from other communities and municipalities that puts us well over the $10 million mark.”

The committees that have actively raised money for the hospital are the St. Anthony’s Foundation and the Charity Golf Tournament, along with donations from the community.

“This facility is both the hospital and the long-term care home, so we’re looking at replacing two buildings, both in that 65 year old range.”
“Number one we’re hoping to increase the amount of care beds in the long-term care and increasing the size of the hospital.”

Moving forward with hospital project
The next steps Forster hopes to take with the project is to keep pushing the government.

“We’re going to continue to lobby as a town, were headed to SUMA next week so were hoping to get a chance to talk to the health ministers, either rural health or the provincial health minister and explain to them where we’re at with the project and put in our two cents for it.”

“The committees I know are continuing to fundraise for it, to replace equipment and to do things that are needed for the hospital, because anything that they’re buying now is going to be transferable from the existing hospital and care home to the new facility, so it’s not going to be wasted money.”

“Our focus is number one, continuing to lobby but number two also looking at ways to continue to help raise money for the equipment and those sort of things.

“From the town’s perspective, we are looking at potential areas to build a new hospital where it’s not going to be where the existing hospital is, we would like to see it more easily accessible.”

Don Hood expresses concerns on Esterhazy’s new hospital
It’s been over 10 years since the community of Esterhazy has raised their portion of contributing to a new hospital and long term care facility, said Don Hood, chairman of St. Andrew’s Hospital foundation.

“To move a project forward the community needs to raise 20 per cent of the funds and we’ve had our 20 per cent for a number of years,” Hood said.

“We’re waiting on the government to come up with their 80 per cent and we were hoping there would be some kind of Esterhazy announcement in the last budget, but there wasn’t. So now we look to the budget next year in March and hope that we’re in that budget so we can start planning in moving the project forward.”

After hearing Saskatchewan’s 2022 Budget, Hood said he was not pleased to see the provincial government not set aside any funds towards Esterhazy’s new hospital and long-term care facility.

“If you look at the budget from an individual, community point of view it’s very disappointing. If you look at it from the province’s financial point of view, where they’ve come through some tough years with Covid and spent a lot of money that was unplanned, you have to have some sympathy for the fiscal problem that they have,” he said.

“Now there are projects ahead of us, Prince Albert has a very important hospital, it serves the north part of Saskatchewan, Yorkton will be ahead of Esterhazy, as will Weyburn. I think some of those projects are going to move forward in this year, hopefully that clears the way for us to start doing some planning and moving forward.”

Hood talked about what the next steps are, with moving forward with the project.

“We have our money available so we’re doing some equipment replacements and we’re focused on equipment that can be moved from the existing hospital and care home, over to the new facility,” said Hood.

“Right now we’re fundraising for a new x-ray machine, we won’t buy equipment that won’t be transferable. For example, we’re not going to fix the roof on the old care home, we’re going to buy equipment that can be picked up and moved into the new hospital and care home. The renovating is just wasted money.”

The $10 million that the town raised for its new facility has all come from fundraising. Hood said the amount is in cash and commitments.

“The communities have been very supportive, the surrounding area, the RMs, the towns, the people in the communities have been very supportive. Everyone understands the need for a new facility.”

Hood was asked if he knows how much the total cost of building the new hospital and long-term care home, will be.

“No we don’t, the only study that was done was in 2011 which estimated the facility to cost about $50 million, with some escalation to today,” Hood said.

“By allowing for some escalation, our estimate is approximately $50 million, but over the last five to 10 years, there hasn’t been a lot of inflation but there is today.”

Hood said the longer the provincial government waits to take action for building the new facility, the more money it will cost them in the future.
“Project costs may take off moving forward here,” he said.

“Inflation is running close to five per cent and who knows it may go higher. The cost of borrowing, the cost of materials, all are going up so yes, the longer we wait the more it’s going to cost.”

Hood said he plans on to continue to pressure the provincial government for funding the new facility, specifically the Minister for Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Everett Hindley, the Minister of Health Paul Merriman and local MLAs.

“First you can’t push them into funding, you have to present your case on why and I think the potash area, which is Moosomin, Rocanville and Esterhazy, is very different than the rest of rural Saskatchewan,” he said.

“We have vibrant industries here that support good jobs and they will be around for 50-plus years. I will be attempting to demonstrate to them that we are different than smaller communities that are going to deteriorate over time, if they don’t have something to sustain them, and some have oil and gas, but the oil and gas is going to disappear in the next 25 years.”

“So, we’ll be attempting to educate them on what I call potash country, just by meeting with them and presenting what’s going on and asking them to come out and tour one of the mines.”

“Unfortunately now we’re in a wait and hope period, hoping that next year’s (provincial) budget has us in there.”

Pfeifer raises Esterhazy hospital question at SUMA
Esterhazy town councillor Marty Pfeifer brought up the question of Esterhazy’s hospital at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention in April, asking during the bearpit session with the provincial cabinet when the hospital will be built.

“We come from a mining town,” Pfeifer said at the SUMA convention.

“Many years ago your former leader announced a multi billion dollar expansion to our mine, right at our back door. It was going to bring millions of dollars of revenue to the province.

“Since then, we feel like we have been ignored. Our hospital we have advocated for about 15 years now and are still waiting.

“We have followed your criteria, we have doctors, we have nurses, we have land, we have ten million dollars sitting in the bank and we are still waiting.

“My question is—if you need emergency transport, you may not make the ambulance trip because of the state of our highways—when, when is this going to happen?”

“Thank you Marty for the question,” Health Minister Paul Merriman responded.

“This is something that I have had a number of conversations with your MLA about. Minister Kaeding has advocated very strongly for the community.

“We take a look at all the areas of need when it comes to capital projects in the province whether that is long term care facilities or acute care facilities.

“We have had a number of projects that have been completed over the past number of years in both of those areas, both acute and long term care and some that are underway right now as we speak.

“For example, work is underway at the hospital in Weyburn as well as some additional dollars to the replacement of the regional hospital in Yorkton as well. That being said we do know that we have other areas of the province—rural communities that are serving quite a population when it comes to the area that they serve and provide these necessary healthcare services.

“That continues to be a priority for us and we will have our conversations with our officials in terms of what’s next when it comes to healthcare facilities in this province because we know that there are demands across Saskatchewan and we are going to try to address those as quickly as we can.”