The Liberal government is pressing ahead with their plan to replace the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s.
The replacement involves two pieces: a new hospital building (as announced, an extension of the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s) and the addition of new community-based supports.
There will be fewer in-patient beds in the new hospital building and so the second piece, the community beds and support programs, are essential to making the replacement work as a whole.
In Budget 2019, $8.9 million has been set aside for the start construction at the Health Sciences Centre. That work is expected to move ahead, regardless of more recent objections raised in the public, related to placement for the new build in an area at heightened risk of flooding from the adjacent river before mitigation efforts.
Health Minister John Haggie told reporters the community supports have been accounted for as well and the government remains “very conscious” of the fact additional community supports need to be in place by the time the extension to the Health Sciences Centre opens.
“We have, for example, commissioned studies on what number of community crisis beds we should need and where they should go,” Haggie said, clarifying a single study is in progress and expected back this summer.
The consultant requested some additional time to complete a review of funding models, but Haggie said the report should be in at some point during the summer, with government expecting to be able to speak to it more by August.
Of course there is more required than crisis beds involved. Haggie said staff in the Health department is working with Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development on supportive housing. Additions being made specifically for the needs tied to the changes in the Waterford Hospital have not yet been specifically identified.
There is $1.3 million set aside to support the Gathering Place in St. john’s in delivering services.
There has been a commitment to bringing more mental health services and supports to rural areas in the province. As an example, Haggie made specific mention of new addictions services “hubs” being announced by the government.
Apart from money for the construction of a Waterford Hospital replacement, there is $1 million earmarked in the budget for the start of construction on a six-bed mental health unit at the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
In terms of in-community mental health services, a few highlights were pulled out in budget documents. They include $914,000 to launch mobile crisis intervention teams on the west coast and in Central Newfoundland.
Another $8.6 million is also expected to be spent this year on the new electrical substation to serve the expanding Health Sciences Centre, as previously reported on by The Telegram. That substation project is expected to be finished in 2020.