Saint John hospital renovations worry some patients

Some patients are concerned about where they will be relocated as the Saint John Regional Hospital is planning renovations to several nursing units.

A total of seven units are slated to be refurbished at a cost of $1 million each over five years, starting next year.

Paul Hanson, a cancer patient who drives two-and-a-half hours from Woodstock to get his radiation treatment, said he is worried about what that will mean for the hostel unit where he stays for a week at a time and receives "exceptional" care.

Hanson said blueprints were passed around, showing a new, smaller space in the "inner bowels" of the hospital, with no windows and no privacy — just beds side by side along a wall and separated by only curtains.

Hanson raised the issue with Premier David Alward in person earlier this month, then followed up with a letter to the premier's office.

"It hardly sounds like an area where good recovery, rest, rehabilitation and some personal privacy will take place," Hanson wrote.

"Imagine staying for eight to 10 weeks for treatment and being housed in such a manner. Is this 2012, or 1912?"

Lyne St.-Pierre-Ellis, the Department of Health's acting deputy minister, replied to Hanson.

"I am sure you can appreciate that any renovations will represent temporary relocations and although they will continue to meet patient needs, they may be less than ideal for a short period; however the end goal is to improve patient care," St.-Pierre-Ellis wrote.

Hanson said he was curious what the senior civil servant meant by "less than ideal."

“They may be ‘less than ideal.’ What does that mean?" asked Hanson.

"What is ‘less than ideal?’ You've got to know what ‘ideal’ is. And then it says 'for a short period.' Still, not questions answered, other than it's going ahead," he said.

The planning committee is still working out the details, said Margaret Melanson, the executive director of the Saint John Regional Hospital.

"And there really have not been any decisions made so I really can't speak to the specifics of what this gentleman may have heard," she said.

The patients in some units may be relocated for up to a year to accommodate the renovations, officials said.

But the work will improve the look of the units and meet new standards in health-care technology and hygiene, Melanson stressed.

"As you know, the Saint John Regional Hospital is now an approximately 30-year-old facility and we have a need to upgrade and renovate certain nursing units, which have not received really any attention over those ensuing years.”

The renovations are expected to start with the cardiac and coronary units next year, officials said.

Obstetrics and gynecology will be done the following year, then some pediatric units, and in year five, the hostel.

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