Sask. Hospital water contamination a symptom of larger problem, says NDP

The growing problems at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford are the result of the provincial government's flawed contracting process, says the opposition NDP.

Government says there is no immediate health risk and drinkable water is being supplied

The Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford, which has almost 300 beds, opened in March. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The growing problems at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford are the result of the provincial government's flawed contracting process, says the opposition NDP.

The new building's roof leaks and will need to be replaced. Now there are signs posted warning patients and staff not to drink the water. Recent tests revealed potentially unsafe levels of lead or copper, according to the government.

The contaminants were found only in the hospital water, said the government. Tests on the rest of the water supply for the Battlefords area were clean.

NDP health critic Vicki Mowat called the situation at the hospital "inexcusable" and "disturbing."

NDP leader Ryan Meili, with health critic Vicki Mowat, holds up the drinking water advisory posted at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford recently. (Jason Warick/CBC)

"There are a string of issues that just keep coming in. It's really disappointing for folks who were depending on this facility in the community for so long," Mowat told reporters Friday in Saskatoon.

Mowat and NDP leader Ryan Meili said the government's P3 contracting model is to blame. They said these essential projects should be built by public sector workers rather than private contractors.

They held up copies of the signs posted at the hospital – a symbol of a water fountain with a red circle and slash through it and the caption, "CAUTION – NON POTABLE WATER - DO NOT DRINK."

Central Services deputy minister Mike Carr said alternate water supplies are in place. He said they'll bring in an independent auditor to evaluate.

Carr said the government will fix the problem and bill the companies who built the hospital. Carr said it's unclear when that will happen or how much it will cost.

Carr, speaking to reporters in Regina, disagreed with Mowat and Meili's assessment.

"It's not unusual to find circumstances where you're commissioning a new building, especially one as large and sophisticated as this one, to find that you've got some challenges," Carr said.

The $407 million hospital opened in March.


Jason Warick


Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.


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