There’s no place like home.

Just ask the residents of the new Northwest Community Lodge in Meadow Lake who, after several years of anticipation, have made the move from the former Northland Pioneers Lodge on 3rd Street West to the new and improved long-term care facility located on Highway 4 just north of town. Following move-in day two weeks ago, the new lodge was officially opened with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday (Aug. 25).

“On behalf of the residents, I just want to say what a wonderful place this has become,” remarked lodge resident Arelne Schuler moments after she cut the ribbon to declare the facility open. “We couldn’t even imagine, and I still have trouble imagining, some of the areas here. It’s fantastic and I just want to say thank you to all those who helped put this together.”

The celebration itself attracted a large crowd of supporters including representatives from the Saskatchewan Health Authority, elected officials, financial donors, lodge residents and staff, and more. Among them was the provincial minister of mental health and addictions, seniors and rural and remote health, Everett Hindley.

“We know how important it is to have high quality health care services right across Saskatchewan,” Hindley said. “Back in 2009, our government promised the replacement or significant renovation of 13 long-term care facilities across the province – facilities that were in fairly significant need of replacement or repair. Today is a very special day because today signifies the completion of that promise from what seems like so many years ago. This completes the 13 facilities listed way back in 2009.”

The provincial government provided $30.5 million for the $38 million capital project. Local funding from both the City of Meadow Lake and RM of Meadow Lake covered the remainder of the cost.

“This is truly a milestone and I want to thank the people of Meadow Lake and surrounding area, and particularly the residents and staff of this facility for their patience,” Hindley continued. “It may have seemed as though there were times this day would never come… But, we are here to celebrate the official opening of this facility, a remarkably efficient, small-house design. Thank you to everyone who has been involved.”

Also on hand for the opening was Andrew Will, the SHA’s interim CEO.

“I would like to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of the Northwest Community Lodge Association and its generous donors for their continued dedication and commitment to enhancing and advancing the continuity of high quality health care services in the community of Meadow Lake,” Will said. “I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the association and to all the donors who have supported our provincial health system through this project. Through meaningful engagement and partnership we continue to strengthen our ability to provide seamless health care as close to home as possible to the residents of Meadow Lake and the surrounding area.”

Will went on to talk about everything the new lodge has to offer. With a more home-like feel, residents can expect individual rooms and relaxing common spaces with plenty of natural light. The lodge consists of six houses, each with their own living room and dining space.

“The SHA is committed to closing the gap on health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and supporting the philosophy of people-centred care for all Saskatchewan people,” Will added. “This philosophy of care guides all aspects of planning, delivery and evaluating health services… A day like today is indicative of our vision for the SHA – healthy people, healthy Saskatchewan.”

Crystal Murray, co-chair of the Northwest Community Lodge Association, also had an opportunity to address those in attendance. The foundation’s goal is to raise $2.3 million for furniture fixtures and equipment for the new facility.

“Our non-profit group was formed in 2015 to raise funds for the furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new facility,” Murray reiterated. “We are a small group of 10 volunteers who have spent countless hours to raise these funds. We would like to thank the many generous donors from the community who helped us raise funds… As a result of your generous donations, our committee has raised, to date, $1,771,615. And, even though the residents have moved into the new facility, our organization is dedicated to raising its entire goal and will continue to fundraise after that goal is met.”

Another dignitary on hand for last week’s grand opening was Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison.

“This really is going to be a wonderful facility for our community, not just today but into the long-term,” Harrison noted. “This is going to be here for decades and, as a community, this is something we can all be very proud of. This is especially the case considering the significant contributions members of this community have made, including the Danilkewich family who donated the land where this facility is located. This is a great day.”

Representing the City of Meadow Lake was mayor Merlin Seymour.

“Last Tuesday (Aug. 16), the residents were moved into their new home and I am sure it is somewhat different from where they came from – I’m betting it is,” Seymour said. “The lodge has been a part of Meadow Lake for 70 years and I for one am excited to see it move into this newest stage of operation… The residents of the lodge are often long-time residents of Meadow Lake who have helped build and strengthen our community throughout their lives. Throughout the process of building the new lodge, we were reminded this isn’t just a health care facility for them, it’s their home and I am happy to say these residents will be able to live peaceful, dignified and comfortable lives while getting access to the care they need.”

Northwest Community Lodge will accommodate up to 72 residents once fully operational. The former Northland Pioneers Lodge allowed space for only 53 residents.

by Phil Ambroziak