Construction crews with Brilun Construction of Sydney are in the midst of a $1.3 million renovation project at the Strait-Richmond Hospital in Evanston. The project is expected to finish late in the spring.

EVANSTON: Renovations are taking place at the Strait-Richmond Hospital and will be continuing into next year.

On November 10, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) issued a press release confirming that work on the 15-bed facility was underway.

NSHA site lead Rose MacIsaac said after starting planning in 2018 and going through various designs and reviews, the tender closed in the spring and was awarded to Brilun Construction of Sydney.

Construction started in September, with the end of all work expected in the late spring, MacIsaac said.

“So far, we’ve been able to maintain our regular services, there hasn’t been any disruption in any service,” MacIsaac said. “There has been a lot of disruption, I think, for the public when they’re coming in and not necessarily knowing which direction they’re supposed to go with places are cordoned off because they’re not acceptable. We have put out some signage, we have some arrows on the floor to guide people where they need to go.”

The work includes renovations to the emergency department, laboratory and specimen collection, as well as the registration area. The registration area at the main entrance will be renovated to accommodate registration for admitting, lab services and diagnostic imaging (X-ray). All registration for lab and diagnostic imaging (X-ray) appointments will take place there.

“We really started with relocating some of our services to temporary locations within the building so that we could accommodate the construction being done,” MacIsaac told The Reporter. “We relocated our lab service to the gift shop and also we’re utilizing a couple of rooms down in our withdrawal management area. And we relocated our front-facing admitting desk to be within the emergency department.”

The old lab space will be renovated to include updated lab space, as well as two ambulatory care rooms. Currently, patients who need ambulatory care are seen in the emergency department so the renovations will provide a dedicated space for visiting specialists to hold clinics and see patients.

“We’re not really gaining any space, we’re taking space from what had been the lab formerly,” MacIsaac explained. “They had a large footprint of space within the building, and we were able to take about half of what the lab had formerly used to create two ambulatory care rooms.”

The NSHA said the work will be done using a phased approach. This current phase is expected to take between five and six months to complete and departments will return to their renovated spaces as they are completed.

“The phases are going to be linked in some ways,” said MacIsaac. “The first thing that the public will see is that our new admitting space will be visible. We’ll move all of our admitting and registration, including for lab and X-ray, will all be located in the front. That we should see by the new year.”

The next phase of work will begin within the emergency department. That work includes relocating the triage area inside the department and reconfiguring the department’s nursing station.

“The work within the emergency department and the lab space will be happening simultaneously,” noted MacIsaac.

According to the NSHA, washrooms will also be updated.

“Our entire emergency department will be more secure and separated,” MacIsaac said. “The washrooms that used to be in the hallway outside of the emergency department will become part of the emergency department. That whole area will be sectioned off and there won’t be any thoroughfare in that area. There were three washrooms located across from the emergency department. Those three washrooms are being refurbished to create two accessible washrooms.”

While work is underway, the NSHA noted there will be less space available temporarily, but the public, staff and patients are asked to abide by social distancing guidelines. People are asked to be patient and check-in with the onsite screener when they enter the building.

The public is also asked to use caution in any areas where work is being done and are reminded to follow COVID-19 measures including visitor restrictions, social distancing, wearing a non-medical mask and good hand hygiene.

“We had to make sure that the construction was very well separated from the rest of the hospital,” MacIsaac said. “Additional precautions were taken to make sure that we were following the public health guidelines related to COVID.”

The renovations are a partnership between the NSHA and the Strait-Richmond Health Care Foundation, and will cost approximately $1.3 million. Nova Scotia Health is contributing $650,000 to the project.

Although the hospital is 40 years old, it remains in “good shape,” MacIsaac said, noting it was been “well-maintained” and hasn’t undergone many major renovations.

“We’re really excited for the positive changes it’s going to bring to the site. It’s going to really improve how patients flow through the building. The admitting area will be much more accessible. We’re still booking based on appointments, so we’ve been able to repurpose some space that in the past might’ve been used as waiting space, which has been a benefit, because then that gives us a little more space to make sure that we’re providing service in a really safe and comfortable environment for our patients. It’s going to really improve the security and the space within our emergency department. Safety for patients and staff because the emergency department will be secure,” she stated. “It’s also really going to provide us with some separate space to offer for visiting specialists who come and do clinics and provide service closer to home for people who may need to see a specialist.”

MacIsaac added thanks to the staff and the public for their patience during this process.