Hay River Regional Health Centre

As Originally Seen in Award Magazine www.canadawide.com

The increased use of ambulatory, or outpatient care has been a prevailing trend for some decades. Health-care delivery specialists almost everywhere are putting more emphasis on providing medical services on an outpatient basis.

Although regional factors like extreme cold, sparse population, unique scheduling and logistical challenges put their stamp on just about any project in Canada’s north, the new health-care facility in Hay River nonetheless reflects the continental shift to ambulatory care in a number of ways. For instance, the new Hay River Regional Health Centre has 16 inpatient hospital beds, while the facility it replaces, the H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital, has 24 beds.

Including the approximately 3,700 Hay River residents, the new facility serves a total population of about 5,500 people, most of them in small, remote communities around the south shore of Great Slave Lake. The region served stretches from Fort Resolution in the east to Fort Providence in the west, some 325 kilometres away, or about a four-anda- half hours’ drive via the MacKenzie and Fort Resolution highways.

It is important that the new facility, which includes primary care, mammography and laboratory services, is geared to the particular health-care needs of the region’s inhabitants, says Perry Heath, director of infrastructure planning with the Northwest Territories government. “The new building is designed to serve a regional perspective. It provides a unique and wide-ranging group of services – midwifery, dialysis, endoscopy, diagnostic imaging. Its services also include wellness, health promotion and illness prevention. The range is very diverse for a building of its size. It’s a regional hub, and has a fully-functioning lab and emergency,” Heath says.

The need for a new state-of-the-art facility like the Hay River Regional Health Centre became clear following studies of the old 24-bed hospital, which was built in 1965. “We completed an engineering assessment and found lots of technical obsolescence. Getting replacement parts was difficult or impossible to obtain. The current operational model for healthcare delivery was no longer supported by the older building,” Heath says.

Other concerns centred around the ability of the older building’s electrical and air-handling systems to meet today’s code requirements. Also, tuberculosis is a health issue in the region, so top-notch, code-compliant air handling, which enables a health-care facility to address its infection control requirements effectively, becomes a priority. Heath notes that the new facility followed the more stringent Canadian Tuberculosis Standard for air quality, which is higher than the CSA standard for airborne isolation.

The new health-care facility is a single-storey, pile-supported, steel frame structure with SBS roofing and a prefinished metal panel system that includes a cement fibre panel to withstand the extreme weather. “When land availability is not an issue, the functional relationships between departments are most easily satisfied with a single-storey design,” says Jan Pierzchajlo, principal at Rockliff Pierzchajlo Architects & Planners Ltd.

“If you stack it and have a two-storey, the inpatient goes to the second level, but emergency is on the main level. For this size, it’s much more efficient for the centre to be a one-storey building. For isolating people, you deal with it on a room basis. It’s not related to the number of storeys. At this scale, there’s more efficiency, not only from a functional perspective. There were cost savings,” he says. Before deciding on a design-build approach for the project, the territorial government had first examined various options, including a two-storey building.

Arctic Canada Construction Ltd. and Bird Design-Build Construction Inc. lead construction under a joint venture agreement. Because of the remote, northern location, special preplanning was required, including a review of the local workforce. “Bird’s construction team incorporated CSA 317.13 and Z800 requirements for the construction,” says Paul Bangma, business development manager at Bird Design-Build Construction Inc.

Pierzchajlo says that the main organizing structure of the new Hay River Regional Health Centre is the development of “Sunny Street,” a public area along the south side of the building with large windows capturing plenty of sunlight. This area, or interior “street,” is adjacent to many of the facility’s main services and is the main wayfinding element within the building.

The cafeteria and waiting areas are located along the street and take advantage of the area’s daylight and visual connection to the outdoors. “We’ve created a place for wellness that also includes some decorative elements. Large photo murals by a local artist, Adam Hill, populate the Sunny Street area. Some of the murals are 30- to 40-feet long,” Pierzchajlo says.

He adds that the Sunny Street approach should help make the outpatient experience as low-stress and pleasant as possible. It meshes well with an approach that minimizes hospital stays and emphasizes ambulatory care.

Laboratories, emergency, diagnostics, acute care and emergency beds are concentrated along the northwest part, or upper bar, of the T-shaped building. The facility has a two-corridor system. One, which services the public, is considered “front of house” and includes the Sunny Street area, while the other main corridor is mostly a staff-only and service corridor.

The key elements of the landscape design were deployed along the south side of the building and to a large extent were aimed at supporting or augmenting the Sunny Street area, which includes a spiritual care centre at one end. “There was a strong desire to create a central focal point that is an analogue to the interior spiritual care centre,” says Peter Speary, principal at Picea Landscape Architecture Inc. The solution included low-lying shrubbery to foster the sense of an integrated space and a firepit to provide a focal point.

The heating and hot water system includes a component not usually associated with a health care centre. Supported by propane boilers, a 750 kW wood pellet boiler cuts the heating bill as wood pellet-fired heat costs less than propane in places like Hay River – despite the fact that the pellets come from La Crete, Alberta. “The wood pellet boiler can supply 80 per cent of the building’s heat requirements during normal operations,” says Brian George, a mechanical engineer with Williams Engineering. 

37911 MacKenzie Highway, Hay River, Northwest Territories

Government of Northwest Territories 

Rockliff Pierzchajlo Architects & Planners Ltd. 

Arctic Canada Construction Ltd. / Bird Design-Build Construction Inc. 

Nelson Engineering Inc. 

Williams Engineering Canada Inc. 

Maskwa Engineering Ltd. 

Picea Landscape Architecture Inc. 

74,000 square feet 

$50.4 million
Hay River Regional Health Centre : News & Media : Bird Construction