A new hospital is coming to Fort St. James.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the provincial government has approved the concept plan for the Stuart Lake Hospital replacement project. Discussions regarding this project have been ongoing since 2008. Northern Health originally submitted a concept plan in 2015, which was followed up this summer with a revised plan.

“The new hospital will bring better acute, primary and community care for people living in Fort St. James, local First Nations and the surrounding area. For a growing senior population in the region and for the economy as a whole, it is an essential public service,” said Dix, in a statement.

“I want to acknowledge the support and commitment of the Stuart-Nechako Hospital District, the community of Fort St. James, and the Nak’azdli Whut’en (Fort St. James), Yekooche First Nation, Tl’azt’en Nation (Tache, Binche, Middle River) and Takla Lake First Nation. Economic optimism is returning to the region after an incredibly difficult summer as a result of wildfires. I know we will continue to work together as we develop the business plan and build the hospital.”

The business plan phase will act to finalize details like scope and budget. This phase is expected to take about 12 to 18 months, and will be followed by procurement and construction. Dix expects “shovels in the ground by 2020”.

The hospital originally opened in 1972 and has since fallen behind in terms of space, functionality, and technology. It currently has 12 beds and offers emergency, acute, and complex care. It also has residential care, lab and X-ray services, and mental health and addictions counselling.