The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has released its new conceptual plan for a replacement for the old Waterford Hospital for mental health services.
The plan now is to build on the existing Health Sciences Centre (HSC) in St. John’s.
It will be built in an area off Warner’s Road (first right off Clinch Crescent) and link up to the area of the current HSC emergency entrance.
Money in the newly released provincial budget includes $6.1 million for advanced planning of the new facility. The Health department will also for 182 new crisis and supportive housing beds in the community (the suggestion is additions through partners, with Stella Burry specifically mentioned as an example) before the new Waterford opens.
Exactly when that will happen is still not certain. The next steps after advanced planning are an analysis to see if a build as a public-private partnership is appropriate, and advanced engineering.
The existing Waterford Hospital in St. John’s will be dealt with by government at a later date. Due to its age, there may be heritage considerations.
The new building for mental health and addictions services will be much smaller in terms of bed space than the earlier Waterford replacement plans of 2014 suggested. The earlier proposal was for a 33,000-square-foot building at the existing Waterford Hospital site offering a total of 140 beds. The estimated cost was about $330 million. The new concept is a roughly 15,000 square foot building with an estimated cost of about $200 million.
Both cost estimates are being offered with the caveat today of plus or minus 30 per cent.
Activity at the HSC could happen as early as 2019, to tear down an existing hostel building serving adult patients and their families. The hostel is commonly used by families travelling in from Labrador and rural Newfoundland for care.
The replacement of that hostel has not yet been settled. The suggestion is a replacement will be developed with the help of the Health Care Foundation. The existing hostel has 100 beds operating at 60-70 per cent capacity, according to officials.
Officials also said the additional community-based beds will be active, with new community mental health supports (more mobile crisis response teams, day treatment programs, single-session walk-ins) before the shut down of the existing Waterford Hospital.
The new build at HSC also includes plans for a four-floor, 120-stall parking garage.
The add-on to HSC is being favoured as a way to reduce stigma around mental health and addictions, it eliminates current patient transfers between the city hospitals and — according to information provided by government — is supported by health professionals including Eastern Health psychiatrists.