Construction begins on new IWK Health Centre emergency department

·2 min read
A rendering of the new emergency department for the IWK Health Centre. The work is expected to be complete in March 2025. (Government of Nova Scotia - image credit)
A rendering of the new emergency department for the IWK Health Centre. The work is expected to be complete in March 2025. (Government of Nova Scotia - image credit)

Work has started on the new $102-million emergency department for the IWK Health Centre.

The project at the Halifax-based children's hospital is expected to be complete in March 2025 and will be more than double the size of the current emergency department.

First announced three years ago, the new space is being built on University Avenue next to the hospital parking garage. The existing emergency department is on the opposite side of the health centre on South Street.

Dr. Katrina Hurley, the IWK's chief of emergency medicine, said the site has been "metaphorically busting at the seams" in terms of patient volume and acuity.

A modern space for modern needs

"We have done everything possible to maximize our space, including changing offices into patient care rooms and expanding the size of our waiting room," she said in a telephone interview.

"Getting a new site and a new footprint and a purpose-designed department means we'll be able to provide more streamlined, better care in the future."

As well as providing more space, the new site is expected to accommodate future population growth, provide more privacy and capacity for mental health services and meet new infectious disease control and prevention measures.

Hurley said the current site was never designed to look after patients with airborne illnesses, and so the new space will have an improved airborne isolation area, along with separate bathroom and care spaces. There will also be improved spaces for mental health care.

"The number of rooms we have is not suitable for the amount of volume of patients we have," she said.

"But because we have sort of expanded into spaces that used to be offices, those rooms are not equipped with oxygen or suction, so we can only look after certain kinds of patients in those rooms."

'Past its expiration date'

Hurley said hospital staff in the emergency department have been able to make due and have "made everything as amazing as we can, but it is clearly past its expiration date."

According to a news release from the provincial government, the IWK emergency department experienced a 28 per cent increase in patient volumes this fall compared to the same time period in 2019. On an average day, there are 90 to 100 visits to the emergency department, which serves the three Maritime provinces.

EllisDon is the construction manager for the project.

A decision has yet to be made about what will happen with the current emergency department space when the new site opens, but Hurley said there's enough demand for space within the health centre that it will certainly be used.

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