Column from MLA Pat Pimm

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

I have been hearing a lot of rumors about what is going to happen to the old hospital in FSJ, so I thought I would take this opportunity to let you know what I know about that building. As you are all aware the old hospital has been shut down and the move has been made to the new hospital location. Northern Health is the owner of the old hospital, both building and property.

There is a process that must be followed when a Government Agency has finished with a building and they are looking at different alternatives for the facility. The first thing that happens is the Government does a report on the condition of the facility, and then considers other options, like whether any other government agencies would have a use for the facility. If there is an alternative use identified, then that is the direction that would be pursued. If not, then Northern Health would proceed to the second step which would be to ask if the municipality or other local government would be interested in the facility ; if the answer was no, then Northern Health would look at their next option, which could mean checking with the private sector to see if there are any possible options and if the answer was also no , then the last and final option would be to demolish the building and make the land available for other purposes.
At this point, Northern health has done the engineering studies and have identified that the building is definitely in need of substantial repairs to the sewer and electrical systems. As a result, the upgrades and renovations required for another government agency to occupy the building would be very expensive, they could not make a good business case for that option.
This process is now in the second stage. Northern Health is in discussions with the municipality to see if there is a good business case for the local government to take over the facility. I believe that there is some potential for this option, however local government must be very cautious as they would not want to take on a facility that could become a financial burden for them, either. A building the size of the old hospital has some very substantial costs associated with running it, so it becomes very important that a proper business case can be made.
I personally feel that the old hospital could have some potential for more extended care units in our area, or possibly some hospice opportunities or even some hostel beds. I always feel we are in constant need of more low cost housing and extended care; however I also know that there must be a case made so that the facility doesn’t end up with a lot of unintended consequences to the community. The old hospital has a couple of tenants at present that could help establish a base occupancy; however, this decision must be made with eyes wide open, to ensure that we don’t end up with an albatross around our necks!
I hope the local government can figure something out that works for the community, but if they don’t we will then have to look at what other options might look like.
Pat Pimm-MLA, Peace River North
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