PORT HARDY—With the sound of drumming and singing and the sight of eagle down floating in the breeze, ground was broken Friday on a new health-care centre that has been three years in the making.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Victoria Power, Island Health’s director of primary health, chronic disease management and rural health for Vancouver Island. “There have been some frustrations and some elations, and I’m just so happy to be where we are today.”
With mostly sunny skies overhead and a backhoe ready for action nearby, the site — close to Port Hardy hospital and Hardy Bay Seniors Centre — was blessed in a ceremony by First Nations leaders, Island Health managers and local civic leaders.
After a welcome by Kwakiutl hereditary Chief George Hunt Sr. and brief statements from fellow Kwakiutl chiefs Calvin Hunt and Thomas Wilson, eight of the dignitaries grabbed shovels to turn the ceremonial first ground on the $1.9 million, 4,700-square foot facility.
“Our chiefs and our family have brought a cleansing and a blessing on this space so the work that will be undertaken for the future generations — to care for our sick and elderly, and all who need that love and attention — will be done in a good way,” said Kwakiutl singer Kaleb Child.
As part of the ceremony, local Island Health managers Angelika Starr, Sandy McKenzie, Leanne Frechette, Sara Gogo, Vickie Janse and Alison Mitchell were garbed in regalia and taught steps for their own blessing dance.
The approval of the integrated health-care facility, contracted through Dave Nelson Construction, came largely through the efforts of the Mount Waddington Local Health Network, formed in 2011 in response to a chronic shortage of health-care staffing and rolling emergency-room closures on the North Island, particularly in Port Hardy.
Forty per cent of the construction funding was contributed by the Regional District of Mount Waddington, and the building is scheduled to open in September of this year.
Boasting office space for more than a dozen physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and therapists, the proposed facility will have 16 examination rooms.