Residents of Perth-Andover will soon see full surgery services up and running again at Hotel-Dieu Saint Joseph Hospital. For four-and-a-half months, hospital staffers have worked toward reopening after March floods, the worst since 1987, forced the hospital's closure.
In June, patients were able to return to the hospital, and some services were restored, including lab testing, diagnostic imaging, therapeutic and emergency services.
This week, a few elective surgeries were performed. More surgeries have been scheduled for next week and operating rooms have begun taking emergency cases.
Claudia Brown said she has been coming to the hospital for 40 years, and she wants to be able to keep doing so. For a time, she was uncertain it would happen. "I did not think it would be open again," she said.
Some services are back, but others may not be restored for another month, which has some people worried.
"Getting patients back in, getting our emergency room open, was the most important thing for us," said Dr. Peter Moore. He said now the biggest concern is finding enough space.
Administrators, specialists and other medical services remain housed in trailers at the back of the hospital. Hospital staff members have been using a makeshift physical therapy room.
Mayor Terry Ritchie and the village council have demanded quicker action from Minister of Health Madeleine Dubé.
"The obstetrics unit is not ready, the ultrasound unit is not ready. They are talking about another month or two months before they will be ready," Ritchie said.
Conservative MLA Wes McLean said he understands the frustrations of patients and doctors. "Obviously the work is not done. There’s still challenges we face but I am glad that the services we have are there," he said.
The record flood caused the village of 1,770 people to evacuate about one-third of the community. The flood level was roughly 1.5 metres higher than the last major flood in 1987.
Patients were scattered to different hospitals and facilities in Grand Falls and Plaster Rock.
In April, Dubé said some sections of the hospital would never be usable again. "The lower part of the hospital, it's gone, basically. There's nothing we can do about it," she said.
Her spending estimates contained no money for repairs or a replacement because the flood happened four days before the provincial budget was tabled in the legislative assembly.