The road leading to the unveiling of the new Kootenay Lake Hospital emergency room on Wednesday afternoon has not been without bumps and detours, but excitement and celebration was the theme of the opening as the public was welcomed into the recently completed wing.
For 32 years, Jan Flett has been an emergency room nurse at the hospital and has experienced first hand the changes that have affected local health care.
“It’s a huge improvement to the community,” Flett told the Star.
“After all that we lost in terms of hospital services about 11 years ago, this to me feels like the first big new thing that we’ve gotten after we had so much taken away from us. It feels really positive and I’m looking forward to working here.”
Nearly 150 members of the community packed into the new waiting area of the emergency room as local politicians and other representatives spoke in celebration of the new facility.
Interior Health Authority board member Glenn Sutherland, Boundary Similkameen MLA John Slater, West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District chair Marguerite Rotvold, Nelson Mayor John Dooley, chief of emergency medicine Dr. Rahul Khosla and Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation chair Pat Dooley all addressed the crowd that had gathered.
Khosla said the renovations and construction of the facility required a lot of specialized contractors working to complete a complex system.
The opening of the new emergency room facility was anticipated last fall, but delays kept coming including the announcement in May that the community would have to wait for the reveal.
“Today is a day for celebration,” said Khosla. “I don’t think any project necessarily goes the way you think it should, but what we are celebrating today is that the end product is beautiful and you know if there is frustration with the delays, the delays were there because the folks managing this project insisted on perfection and we’ve got perfection.”
Khosla was among six speakers who began the opening ceremony.
“It’s a very complex system,” he said. “There is a complicated electrical system, communication system, medical specific ventilation system and an isolation room. All of these things require various contractors and are very complex to put together into one piece, but it has come together perfectly.”
Dooley expressed excitement about the opening of the emergency room.
“I’m very excited and it’s very emotional because a lot of people worked so hard on the vision for the day and now that it is finally here, it feels like such a relief,” said Dooley. “It feels like we delivered the goods and I feel really excited and quite emotional about that facility being opened.”
Dooley said even though there were delays through the process, it reinforced the need of involved parties to stay focused on the end goal.
“The delays meant that we had to stay very focused and not get distracted by the various conversations that were happening around any developments on this site that would take away from this project being delivered,” said Dooley.
“That was really important to us, and that’s not easy to do as a politician because we can get a certain amount of pressure from different areas. We had a goal to get this project built working in conjunction with the West Kootenay Boundary Hospital Board District, Interior Health Authority, the staff at the hospital and we stayed focus on that piece.”
While the primary benefit of the new emergency room will be the delivery of health care to the Nelson and area, Dooley said there is a bigger message.
“That message is that there is a commitment to this facility from Interior Health and from the West Kootenay Boundary Hospital Board,” he said.
“That piece is just as important as the facility itself. It’s saying it recognizes the value of this site and the need that it is servicing and we need to invest in it going forward if we are going to continue meeting those particular targets of meeting the needs of the residents of Nelson and area and the north end of Kootenay Lake.”
One of the main features of the new facility is that is more spacious which impacts a greater level of service provided to patients.
“We will have a lot more space,” said Flett. “We will not be bumping into each other. There will be a separate computer table for each nurse rather than three of us sharing one. The doctors will have more space and more privacy to go away when they need quiet to dictate or whatever it is they are doing. They will have the opportunity to do that. The privacy factor will be absolutely wonderful. We will be able to speak to patients without worrying that the patient next door can hear the very private conversation we are having.”
Flett said she is also looking forward to learning to use the new state of the art equipment.
“Its physical space is a lot bigger, but the actual patient bays there are only a few more,” said Khosla.
“That isn’t our issue and never has been, it hasn’t been that our wait room is full. The problem has been that it is too cramped inside. We have one more trauma bed, one more isolation room, one or two more observation rooms and more chair bays. We have more purpose-specific rooms which may equal about five more rooms.”
Flett said while she is concerned about the increasing number of beds, she is confident that she and her co-workers will be able to embrace the new facility.
“It will be a lot more walking for the nurses,” she said. “The space is triple the size of our old emergency and double the beds and we aren’t getting any new staff. I am a little concerned about how we will manage that, but I’m sure we will figure it out. We are a very cohesive group of nurses. We all work well together and work hard and we have a huge commitment to the Kootenay Lake Emergency. We all love working here and have for many years. It’s nice that we’ll have a new and improved space to work in.”
Sutherland, the event’s master of ceremonies, read a statement on behalf of Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, who was unable to attend the opening.
The new emergency room will officially open to the public on September 18.