Dwight Ball announced on Thursday government plans to build a new mental health care facility as part of the Health Sciences Centre.
The provincial government is rolling out plans to build a new mental healthcare facility in St. John’s with the idea to replace the 163-year-old Waterford Hospital.
The initial plan from 2014 was to replace the Waterford Hospital at its current location at a cost of $330 million. However, the new plan has been tabled with a price tag of $200 million, with a possible change in cost of plus or minus 30 per cent (give or take $60 million).
Premier Dwight Ball delivered the announcement at Memorial University’s medical school in front of a generous public turnout.
“We are leaving behind the Victorian institutional model of psychiatric care symbolized by the Waterford Hospital,” Ball said.
“Supported by over $6 million in Budget 2018, Building Our Future, we will replace the Waterford Hospital with a new 94-bed, state of the art, mental health and addictions facility. The new facility will be built right here at the Health Sciences complex and will be connected to the existing hospital.”
The Agnes Cowan Hostel will be demolished, and the new mental health facility will be built in its place with a new hostel next door to accommodate families who have to travel to St. John’s.
Paula Corcoran-Jacobs is a mental health advocate and executive director of Consumers Health Awareness Network Newfoundland and Labrador (CHANNAL). She spoke during the announcement as part of the panel on behalf of the public, as she has experience in dealing with a mental illness firsthand.
“This decision today is affecting all of us,” Corcoran-Jacobs said. “We can no longer segregate, and isolate, those of us living with these illnesses. We can no longer try to separate mental health and physical health. Health is health.”
Including the new 94-bed facility in St. John’s, there will be 182 community beds placed across the province. That number includes six mental health beds for the hospital based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and the opening of two new nursing positions at that location. Ball says this is an area the provincial government knows it needs to focus on.
“This is a region we know that needs some intervention, not just with this facility,” he said. “We will be recruiting two new permanent positions for that region as well.”
Residents of Newfoundland have long been vocal about the necessity for a new mental healthcare facility in the province. It seems their voices have finally been heard. Ball is optimistic about the new endeavour.
“I was thinking about this announcement this morning, and something occurred to me,” he said. “This is the first mental health facility that will be built in Newfoundland and Labrador since Canada became a nation.”
The project is slated to begin in 2019, with the expected completion date by 2025.