It truly is a made in Saskatchewan vision come to life.
Nearly five years after a historic groundbreaking, the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital is open and many say it will usher in a new, state-of-the-art chapter for health care across the province. It will open its doors to patients on Sunday, Sept. 29.
“Hope really does win here,” Premier Scott Moe said, invoking the words of former premier Brad Wall, who got the ball rolling on the project and sat at the helm of the province through much of its development.
Moe called the hospital and work behind it “nothing short of spectacular” and “the very best our province has to offer.”
“It’s truly a great day for the people who live in this province,” Moe added in a news conference, adding the hospital belongs to the people whose generosity and compassion compelled them to press forward no matter what.
A new day dawned on the project in 2017 when Jim Pattison made the largest one-time donation in Saskatchewan history to a charitable organization. The Luseland native donated $50 million to the hospital. The funds were used to develop a research hub at the facility and will help provide long term sustainable care for children across the province.
In recognition of the unprecedented gift, the provincial hospital and its supporting foundation were renamed to bear Pattison’s name.
“Money is money but people and volunteers in communities like this, this province in particular, they contribute so much,” he said. “Volunteers make a community work.”
He called the facility a “very special place,” and thanked the many individuals who had a hand in bringing about the hospital. He said a facility of this caliber for the province will be a boon for all families.
The total cost for the hospital is around $285.9 million. Around $257 million in capital costs came from the provincial government and $75 million from the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation for capital costs, equipment and furnishings. There are around 77,000 pieces of equipment in the hospital.
The 400,000 square foot facility houses 176 beds on four occupied floors. The physical building is meant to reflect the sky and environment in Saskatchewan.
Interior designs for the facility are heavily influenced by community consultations, particularly from children and families.
The ground level includes pediatric emergency and surgery rooms alongside dedicated pediatric surgery suites and induction rooms. The induction and surgery rooms are designed to create calming environments for children. These rooms have options to create variable colours on the walls.
Where curtains are common today, frosted doors and walls enclose individual rooms. This allows for greater infection control, privacy and softer acoustics.
The main floor includes the reception and lobby, pediatric outpatient area and other amenities. A spiritual reflection room and the first therapeutic play area for kids is on the floor.
The second floor contains inpatient units, observation units and the only pediatric intensive care unit in the province. The first pediatric sleep lab to keep patients for sleep study treatments is on the second floor as well as an outdoor play area.
The third floor accommodates all maternal care needs, allowing mothers through labour and birth to stay with their children in one room.
The fourth floor has neonatal intensive care units (NICU). The NICU provides 24-hour care to infants who are critically ill or require tightly-controlled environments to recover. Each baby and family in the unit receives a private room, not side by side open bays.
To date, 60 new specialists have been hired and 13 vacancies remain, according to Corey Miller, the Vice President of Provincial Programs for the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“On top of physicians, because of this project and size of this facility we have recruited over 440 new allied health professionals,” he said. “A combination of nurses pharmacists, social workers, child life workers, medical imaging technologists, lab technologists … the whole gamut of health professionals.”
A number of staff from the Royal University Hospital will be moved to the new facility, too, he said, to bring the total number of people who work and serve the building to over 4,000. When the facility opens later this month, training and orientation of over 2,400 staff, including physicians, will have taken place.
“We have changed the model of care and the way we plan to deliver care in this building and that model of care and planning has happened with patients and families right at the table with us,” Miller said. “It’s a very family and patient focused model of care.”
He expects the building to be at full occupancy within a week of opening because of the specialists recruited. The hospital and those who work inside will help reduce the number of out-of-province transfers, he added.
The idea for a children’s hospital in Saskatchewan dates back to 1992 when two passionate doctors believed kids in the province deserved more. Dr. Alan Rosenberg and Dr. Jerome Yager knew that children had unique needs and required specialized equipment and research.
Sixteen years later, the provincial government gave the go-ahead for a children’s hospital at the University of Saskatchewan and pledged $1 million for preliminary planning. In March 2009, the cornerstone financial commitment by the province came together, with $200 million earmarked for the then Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.
In September 2010, the cheque was stroked to the health region. In 2014, an additional $20 million was given to the project as the province posted one of the highest growth rates in the country.
In the years to follow, fundraising campaigns sprung up across Saskatchewan to help enhance equipment and furniture inside the facility.
On Sept. 25, 2014, dozens gathered to live stream the groundbreaking across the province.
In July 2019, the new heliport atop the hospital opened ahead of schedule. It is Saskatchewan’s second rooftop helipad, the other is at the Regina General Hospital. That previous transportation process took up to 25 minutes. The SHA is optimistic it could be reduced to about three minutes when the new emergency departments open.