Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Here I am by Corner Brook's brand-new hospital. Oh, wait

The new hospital in Corner Brook was supposed to have been built by 2016. The city still has a vacant lot.

A new hospital was promised more than a decade ago. It's still a vacant lot

Geoff Bartlett drives by this cleared lot every day, wondering when the new hospital — the one that was announced 11 years ago — will be built. (Geoff Bartlett)

We need to talk about the hospital in Corner Brook.

I recently moved back to the city after nearly a decade away, and every morning I drive by the large cleared piece of land where the new health centre is supposed to be built.

It's the same scene I've been looking at for the last several years during my visits home, and while construction of the long-term care component of the project is finally underway, there's still no sign of the hospital itself.

I've been listening to my family and fellow Corner Brookers complain about the stalled project for more than 10 years, and it really has me wondering — what's wrong with us?

Why are we so inefficient as a province? Why would our government announce such a project and then not follow through in a timely manner?

Why did our politicians create this political nightmare for themselves?

11 years of being let down

It was back in 2007 that then-premier Danny Williams first announced the aging Western Memorial Regional Hospital would be replaced.

Not one nail, screw or steel beam has been put into place.

Fast-forward 11 years, and construction has yet to begin.

Eleven years of consultations, signed contracts and promises about start dates.

Not one nail, screw or steel beam has been put into place.

Residents were initially told construction would be complete in 2016, only to find out it would be delayed and the long-term care would come first.

Then last year, residents were told by the Ball Liberals that work on the actual hospital should be starting next year with a target date of opening in 2023.

2023! That's 15 years after the Williams PCs first put the hospital on the public agenda.

There's a reason people are cynical

The ordeal makes it easy to understand why people in western Newfoundland have grown cynical about the project and government's attitude toward the region in general.

Sorry for stating the obvious, but there has to be a better way.

Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook is in dire need of replacing. (Geoff Bartlett)
Every day as I drive by the vacant lot on the Corner Brook ring road I am reminded of how I live in a part of the world that will never make headlines for its efficiency and record-breaking construction speed.

Obviously there are legitimate financial and political reasons for why the hospital project has stalled. The 2014 drop in the price of oil blindsided our government and many of its lofty ambitions.

Still, promising an already economically downtrodden part of the province such a large project and then delaying its completion by 15 years is a bit much. It's a reminder of how unpredictable things in Newfoundland and Labrador are —  and volatility and uncertainty is not a great quality to keep young professionals like myself and so many of my peers living here.

Pop was right

Growing up in Corner Brook, I would sometimes listen to my grandfather's frustrated rants about how the west coast always played second fiddle to what was happening the Avalon Peninsula.

I would think to myself that he was just bitter about events and decisions from a bygone era, and that times had probably changed.

Certain parts of Western Memorial Regional Hospital, like this back section, have been around since the 1940s. (Geoff Bartlett )

But now that I'm back home after years in St. John's, I see his frustrations were completely justified then — and still are now.

I was recently treated at Western Memorial Regional Hospital following a car accident.

While the staff and quality of care I received were excellent, the facility itself is definitely showing its age, and a replacement is badly needed. Not just for Corner Brook, for the entire western Newfoundland region.

This area has so much promise, but the general sense from the people here is that we are an afterthought for the decision-makers in St. John's.

It's probably not entirely true, so how do we shed that bitterness that gripped my grandfather for most of his life?

It's the same resentment that's starting to creep its way into my own thinking and that of so many who live in the Corner Brook area.

Starting construction on the damn hospital as soon as possible might be a good place to start.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Geoff Bartlett


Geoff Bartlett is an educator and journalist in Corner Brook.