New hospital opens in Watson Lake, Yukon

Hospital ready after years of delays, labour disputes and the project exceeding its budget by 500%

Community welcomes new services available at hospital

CBC's Dave Croft reports from Watson Lake 2:30

Politicians and Yukon Hospital Corporation officials did their best to put the controversies surrounding the Watson Lake hospital behind them as they officially opened the town's new health care facility.

The project had been in discussion for almost a decade and construction saw delays, budget over-runs and workers walking off the job over disputes with a sub-contractor. The initial budget called for a $5 million renovation and the end total could exceeed $25 million.  

 People in Watson Lake will have to wait another month or so before they can use their new hospital.

The new hospital in Watson Lake will offer services such as X-rays and blood tests. (CBC)

Hospital board chair Craig Tuton acknowledges the controversies but said the project is worthwhile. 

"We've had one or two bumps and I guess one or two major bumps, but we've always found a way to keep our heads down and keep looking at what our goal was and that's finish this building," said Tuton.

Tuton said the hospital corporation is committed to providing as many medical services as possible to communities, which is important to many of the several dozen people who turned out for the opening ceremony.

Ruth Holt is happy routine tests that used to mean a long drive to Whitehorse will now be done in Watson Lake.

"Well I've just heard that we can get a blood analysis here for a change," she said.

The new hospital will also provide X-ray services.

"It's really important for people to have a lot of those results quickly to help prevent them from being transferred to other facilities for care," said facility administrator Carol Chiasson. 

Holt and Chiasson’s comments suggest the community doesn't agree with an Auditor General report which questioned whether an acute care hospital really met the community's health care needs.

Hospital corporation officials now turn their attention to opening the territory's other new hospital in Dawson City, where similar controversies swirl around that project.