Hospital renovations well underway

Nick Moase
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It's hard to miss the giant hole behind the Queens General Hospital, but this one was put there on purpose. The renovation and expansion of the hospital is underway, which will bring better care to the citizens of Queens. 

Margo Walsh-Leaman. Facility and Planning director for the hospital expansion, presented an update to Region of Queens Council on Nov. 19.

Ground for the expansion was broken in August of this year, and construction crews quickly got to work. The medical wing is now torn apart, and the footings are being put in place for the expansion of the wing.

Asbestos removal will soon be underway, and will take about two to three weeks per floor of the former medical wing. Experts are coming in to do the removal, with extensive safety measures being put in place.

The wing has been isolated from the rest of the hospital, and sealed to prevent dust escaping. HEPA air filters on several filter fans are in place, so any air people hear being pumped out of the wing will be well cleaned before ever going into the atmosphere, says foreman Dwayne Whynot.

All materials are sealed before taken out of the wing, and disposed of at a facility in Halifax.

Running a hospital while construction underway isn't without it's challenges however.

The helipad used for emergency transportation is closed while construction is underway, but an alternative was found. The helipad located in the industrial park, originally used by the Department of Natural Resources, and will be used until the construction is finished.

Until the renovations are complete, the hospital is down from their standard 22 beds to 14. Five more were opened at South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater to help alleviate the pressure, though it has still been challenging says Walsh-Leaman.


Parking Challenges

Perhaps the biggest issue is parking, and will likely continue until the construction is complete. Most of the back parking lot is now either a large hole or is being used for equipment.

To prevent cars from driving through the site, the entrance was moved to where cars used to exit the parking lot, and an upper parking lot was built. Another lot that wraps behind the former nurses residence will be finished soon. A temporary entrance was put in by the loading dock on that side of the hospital, so people do not have to walk all the way around to the main entrance.

The lower parking by the main entrance lot has created other complications, says Walsh-Leaman. It is signed as staff only because of a safety issue. There is little room to turn around if all the spots are full, and cars backing out have created some near accidents when trying to back onto School Street.

The lower lot will soon be inaccessible anyway however. A new sewer line and pump station will be installed this week, which will close the lot until it is complete.

To help with patient drop offs, nine spots were created across from the Emergency Department parking.


The finished product

When finished, the hospital will have 22 beds, with 14 single rooms and four double rooms. More importantly, each patient will have their own washroom, even those in the double room.

Two of those rooms will be larger, to accommodate bariatric, or obese, patients, and two others will be set up for negative air pressure for severe infection cases.

The expansion will also add a new primary health care centre, with 15 exam rooms, seven offices and a group treatment room that holds up to 40 people. The main entrance of the hospital will also be moved to the back of the hospital.

A unique feature of the hospital expansion is how it was funded. About 84 per cent, or $13.5 million, came from the community. Of that, $7 million came from the Queens General Hospital Foundation and $4 million from an anonymous donor.

The remaining community funding came through the "Keeping Us Strong" campaign, which started in November 2011. In a little less than a year, the campaign hit their goal of $1.5 million, which came from over 800 donors.

The estimated opening date for the medical unit is in September of 2013, with the rest of the expansion finished by the end of that year. 

Organizations: Queens Council, Department of Natural Resources, South Shore Regional Hospital Emergency Department Queens General Hospital Foundation

Geographic location: Halifax, Bridgewater

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