ER renovations in Petrolia given green light

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Artist rendering of the redesigned hospital from the corner of Dufferin and Blanche St.

Heather Wright/The Independent

Officials with Bluewater Health say it is an exciting step in the redevelopment of Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital.

The hospital’s board has approved the plan to renovate the emergency department at the Petrolia site and the proposal is now in the hands of the Ministry of Health.

In April 2017, the head of Bluewater Health announced the provincial government had provided a $7.5 million grant to reconfigure and update the historic hospital.

The 25-year plan for the complete redevelopment of the Petrolia hospital was to begin with the reconstruction of the emergency and diagnostics departments which, in 2017, were said to be in “immediate need of renovation.”

The emergency department was originally designed for 7000 visits, and now 22,000 people come to Petrolia’s ER every year.

But as the plans progress, officials realized the bones of the structure, including the heating and electrical systems, needed an overhaul. Four years, and over $4 million later, much of that work has been done. But the plans for the emergency department were only plans until the hospital’s board of directors gave them the green light last week. They were sent immediately to the Ministry of Health.

Rural Health Director, Bob DeRaad, is hopeful the ministry will approve the plan by this spring.

DeRaad says the plans for the emergency department include separate ambulance and pedestrian entrances, increasing the size of the treatment rooms and providing a separate mental health room in the department.

“We would be also putting in a new cooling tower on top of the roof that would help support future redevelopment of the Petrolia site,” DeRaad says.

“It’s going to put us in a lot better position for the next 15 to 20 years when we look when we hope to build a new emergency department.”

The reconstruction of the emergency department will be costly and a bit difficult for staff. DeRaad says the plan is to continue using the ER while the now vacant operating rooms are rebuilt to be new treatment rooms. Once they’re complete, the ER will move into the new area, while the current department is retooled.

“We’re really fortunate in that we have a lot of large space that is not being used right now. So we can move the emergency department to that unused space, it won’t be pleasant….but at the end of the day, we’re going to have a bigger, more functional emergency department.”

Original estimates put the ER renovations around $7 million. DeRaad says with the rising cost of building materials and inflation, it will likely be more than that.

That puts added pressure on the CEEH Foundation, which will be helping to raise 10 per cent of the costs.

Foundation Chair Owen Byers says the board is well positioned to help since it has been putting proceeds of its fundraising away for the renovations for some time.

He adds the upcoming Dream Home Lottery will also help boost the coffers in preparation for the renovations.