by Phil Ambroziak

Good things come those who wait.

After years of prolonged patience concerning the eventual construction of a new long-term care facility in Meadow Lake, supporters of the project were very pleased when, earlier this year, the provincial government included such a facility in its annual budget. That excitement was rekindled this past weekend when Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison announced the timeline for the project starting with shovels hitting the ground and ending with the new lodge opening its doors for the very first time.

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority and the City of Meadow Lake have signed the final agreement on the construction of the lodge,” Harrison remarked during Saturday’s Festival of Trees fundraiser at the Meadow Lake Civic Centre. “The final details of the agreement with the RM of Meadow Lake are still being negotiated. Once that is completed, the tender package can be issued. We’re hopeful this will be in December. That will allow construction to commence this winter. We are aiming for substantial completion by summer 2021 and official opening by the fall of 2021.”

In a subsequent interview, Harrison said this is great news for the people of Meadow Lake and area and was well received by the Meadow Lake and District Hospital Foundation, the group that organizes the Festival of Trees each year as a means of raising money to make much-needed equipment purchases for both the local hospital and the long-term care facility.

“This is the top capital project for the entire government right now,” Harrison said. “Premier Scott Moe and my cabinet colleagues have made it a top priority. I’ve obviously been working hard on it for some time and the new lodge will be a state-of-the-art facility that will serve our citizens for decades to come.”

While final figures were unavailable by this week’s news deadline, Saturday’s Festival of Trees was expected to bring in more than $100,000 for the hospital foundation. Of this, $50,000 has been earmarked for the lodge.

Meanwhile, speaking to the sold out crowd at the civic centre, Festival of Trees emcee and chief of staff at the Meadow Lake Hospital, Dr. Gavin Van de Venter, stressed the importance of continuing to support fundraising efforts for the lodge and also addressed long-standing rumour and innuendo as it pertains to the disappearance of dollars already donated to the cause.

“It came to our attention late last year and early this year there was some issues with the money that had been donated, and that some of it was disappearing,” Van de Venter said. “We don’t know how much money disappeared, but we do know it is being investigated at a very high level. The police are involved, the government is involved and the Saskatchewan Health Authority is involved. The CEO of the SHA – the boss – even came to Meadow Lake to find out what was happening, so they’re taking it very seriously and we’re going to try to figure out where the money is and what happened. In spite of this, the long-term care facility is going ahead. When the CEO came to town, he assured me it will be going ahead and we’ve just had confirmation.”

Van de Venter went on to say, when the project was first initiated, it came with a price tag of $25 million. Five years later, it is now up to $40 million.

“The reason for that is not just time, but improvements in technology and more things we want to add to the services we provide our clients,” he said. “Meadow Lake has become a shining beacon in the SHA for primary heath care. But there are also people, like those in this room, who decide we’re not going to allow the naysayers or the pundits of negativity to get in our way. I commend you and I thank you.”