It’s light, and bright, with open, home-like spaces, places for therapy and recreation, and for family to meet, and above all, private rooms for patients.
The new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford (SHNB) is open to the public for tours between October 22 and November 2. On October 18, the media got a sneak peek at the new 284-bed provincial psychiatric facility prior to patients and staff moving in. Though it is still without many of its furnishings, the space itself is impressive.
The sheer size of the new hospital, which overlooks the North Saskatchewan River valley and is within sight of the current 105-year-old hospital, is something to behold. This new 284-bed provincial psychiatric facility is replacing the existing 156-bed hospital. The new facility will include188 psychiatric rehabilitation beds and a 96-bed secure wing for individuals who are incarcerated and will come to SHNB for mental health assessment and treatment.
The new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford is a huge presence on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
The new facility absolutely dwarves the old hospital – the new hospital is the length of 3.5 CFL football fields – and every inch was designed with patients in mind.
Patients asked for four things in a new facility, notes Linda Shynkaruk, director of Saskatchewan Hospital, which is the province’s only psychiatric rehabilitation hospital.
First, privacy: patients wanted private spaces. This new facility provides that. Unlike the old hospital where patients sleep four to a room in some units, in the new, all patients each have their own bedroom.
Private rooms were at the top of the patients’ wish list when they were asked what they wanted in a new facility.
Second: more bathrooms. The old Saskatchewan Hospital, completed in 1913 and built in a dormitory style, has limited bathroom space. Each unit of 24 patients shares two bathrooms – one for men, and one for women. In the new hospital, bathrooms will be shared by just two patients.
“Right now, there are so many people trying to share limited toilet stalls, limited sinks, and limited shower spaces,” says Vikki Smart, executive director of Primary Health Care for the Northwest for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “Can you imagine in the morning, when you’re trying to get ready, bumping into everyone? Privacy just doesn’t exist. When the patients came over to see the new hospital, they were so excited about sharing a bathroom with just one person.”
Each patient bathroom will be shared by just two people.
Third: natural light. The old hospital, like many buildings of that era, has small windows that don’t seem to let in a lot of light. In the new hospital, there’s light everywhere, streaming in through enormous windows with spectacular views of the rolling prairie and river outside.
“They really wanted light,” says Smart. “The old building is dark. Here, there’s sunlight coming into every room. When you have mental health issues, light is important, especially catching the sun even in the winter time.”
The views out the many windows of SHNB are stunning.
Fourth, was better temperature control. Patients will not only be able to somewhat control the temperature in their own spaces, the entire building is climate-controlled – something that can’t be said about the old hospital.
Once the new hospital is open, the general public will see a beautiful facility, but the patient-focused areas shine brighter than the staff and public spaces.
“The best real estate in the hospital was truly saved for the patients,” says Shynkaruk. “And they so deserve it.”
The design goes beyond the colours chosen – meant to be peaceful and calming – and the elevators, which number seven in the new hospital (there are only two in the old). It even goes beyond the outdoor space, though there is an outdoor courtyard available to patients on every unit, in addition to the indoor courtyard which will be used by patients for socialization, relaxation, entertainment and just enjoying the warm and welcoming environment.
“The whole place is designed to be a therapeutic environment,” says Smart. “There are spaces where patients can congregate together, or visit individually, make friends, learn activities of daily living. Here, we care for the people with mental health issues that can’t be managed in the community or in acute care facilities. Our patients’ average stay is 18 months. What we wanted to create here is an environment where they can really heal.”
A great deal of thought about how to make things better for patients has gone into this facility. For example, patients being admitted to the non-secure side of the hospital will enter through a private, discreet entrance. They won’t have to walk through the main doors any longer, having to navigate through other people milling around. They’ll be met by an admissions team in an interview room just inside the doors to do their admission interview. And if they’re feeling anxious, or are unable to control their risk, an intensive psychiatric care room (IPCR) is right there, just inside the doors; a space where they can calm down or be observed before being taken onto the actual unit.
Patient safety and comfort is clearly top of mind, even when it comes to fixtures and fittings. The door handles are specially designed to prevent ligature harm, toilet seats are integrated with the actual toilets, sinks don’t have ridges, shower curtain rods are backed so there are no ligature points, safety handrails throughout the facility are backed, and anti-barricade systems are in place on all doors where a patient may be in a room alone.
Patient safety is improved simply by how the nurses’ station is laid out. No longer tucked away and surrounded by walls preventing them from observing the ward, nurses in the new hospital will be able to see, from their desk, down the hallways of their unit, enabling them to respond more quickly if a patient is in distress.
The nurses’ stations in the new facility are much more open, and allow for easier supervision of their units than those in the old hospital.
In addition to their private rooms, patients will have common spaces on their unit where they can congregate. There’s a living room space on the unit, which is something they have now, but new to them will be the nutrition station, where they can access cold drinks or warm up food, as well as Zen activity spaces, quiet places where they can get away from the noise on the unit to sit and read, or do a puzzle.
Each unit has its own living room for patients to gather in.
Also new are therapy spaces on the unit, for those who can’t access the dedicated therapy mall in the hospital. And there are program spaces on the ward as well, for psychologists and other professional groups to run group activities.
Each ward has its own dining space, though many patients will eat in the sun-filled main cafeteria on the second level, with their friends from other wards.
The common patient dining room on the second level has a beautiful view of the river valley and lets in a lot of sunlight – another item at the top of the patients’ wish list for the new facility.
The hospital goes on and on - there’s a gift shop, a hairdressing salon, a business centre where patients can train for vocations, and an apparel shop where patients can “shop” free of charge for clothing donated to the hospital. It’s really an extended community that has been created in this extensive space.
The industrial therapy program space is home to a state-of-the-art woodworking shop, and next door, the space for the Vocational Incentive Program (VIP), for patients who require a high level of supervision and security, is enormous, just right to accommodate the shredding and recycling jobs they do.
A state-of-the-art woodworking shop is part of the new hospital.
Both of these programs are currently run outside the main building of the old Saskatchewan Hospital, as there just isn’t space in the main building. This means in inclement weather, some patients aren’t able to take advantage of the programs.
“Having all programs under one roof now is so exciting for us and our patients,” says Shynkaruk.
Along the hallway next to the main cafeteria are an internet café, education centre, and library. Down the hall in the other direction is a medical clinic – a completely new feature from the old hospital. In this space, patients will have access to dentistry, optometry, laboratory and diagnostic imaging services, things for which they currently have to go out into the community.
“It’s a real advantage for patients with mobility issues, and for long-term patients,” Shynkaruk notes.
A medical clinic located inside the new Saskatchewan Hospital brings services like diagnostic imaging to patients, instead of them having to access those services in the community.
On the fun side of things, there’s a full-sized gymnasium for patients – they have nothing similar right now – which can be separated in halves for separate events, as well as an adjacent games room to hold the patients’ pool table, gaming systems and shuffleboard. There’s also a cardio/weight fitness room for patients, and a staff fitness room as well. Nearby is the multi-cultural spiritual area, and a music and art therapy room.
The patients will have access to a full-sized gym in the new facility, which can be halved (as shown) for smaller gatherings.
There’s lots of space for visitors, too. There’s a staff and visitor cafeteria, a patient-run coffee shop and canteen, and a huge lobby area with views overlooking the river. There are even two family visiting spaces, and two family visiting apartments – complete with bedrooms and kitchenettes – where families can stay when they come to visit their loved one.
“One of the big things for patients is visiting their families,” Shynkaruk says. “Our patients come from all over the province, and their families may not have the financial ability to travel here, and pay for accommodations and meals in the community. We can accommodate them, to a limited degree, in the facility, which will mean the world to some patients, as they will get to see their families that much more often.”
Patients will begin to move into the new hospital in a phased approach starting in mid-November. The staff who will work at the new Saskatchewan Hospital are in the process of preparing for the move right now, and excitement is mounting for everyone.
“Morale is really up. Staff and patients are ready for this move,” says Shynkaruk. “I can’t tell you how proud we are of this new building".