A special sneak preview of “open arms” hospital

Plans for Qikiqtani General Hospital full of light and life


A hospital full of light and life — that’s how visitors and staff are supposed to see the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit after it opens in 2006.

Nunatsiaq News has arranged a special sneak-preview of the hospital three years before its scheduled opening — and readers can see for themselves a design intended to convey a sense of welcome.

A computer-generated rendering of the two wings of the long-awaited $45.9-million replacement hospital, shown above, depicts building for which “the basic form is ‘open arms,'” said Ash Randev, the Government of Nunavut’s senior manager on the hospital project.

The entire building will contain 4,975 square metres of floor space, which will make it somewhat larger than the current hospital. The old building will continue to house services such as a cafeteria and out-patient clinics.

Its exterior façade will look like the sea. The main body of the building will be finished with panels of various sizes and colours to create the effect of sparkling water.

Three “islands” will break away from the “sea.” Two of them are actually the ends of the wings that define the limits of the building. The third “island” is the hospital’s main entrance.

Four small skylights are designed to look like pieces of ice on the sea.

At night, architects hope these skylights will resemble shooting stars. The largest skylight, when illuminated from inside, should glow like the moon.

The curved roof is supposed to recall wind and disappear in the landscape.

The walkway between the new facility and the current hospital is seen as a bridge, a link between the old and new.

You’ll arrive at the two-storey Qikiqtani General Hospital at its drive-through canopy and enter into a naturally lit entrance hall, with a 10-metre-high atrium, decorated with works of art.

On the lower floor you’ll find an enlarged emergency services department, diagnostic imaging, a laboratory, health records, a snack bar, a play room for children and ample patient waiting rooms.

A separate entrance for ambulances will offer them direct access to the emergency department.

On the upper floor you’ll find rooms for patients, fully equipped surgical units, respiratory care facilities, and a chapel.

The 35 patient beds will be surveyed from two nursing stations and every room will have a view. Most bedrooms will face the southwest, toward the bay.

Since prevailing winds usually come from the northwest, they should scour the hills above the hospital clear of snow.

Outside the new hospital, there will be space for nearly 50 vehicles, as well as pedestrian walkways. A circular wall surrounding the terraced parking area may feature the municipal emblems of Baffin communities.

However, even as blasters prepare to excavate the future hospital’s site along Apex Road over the next couple of weeks, the facility still exists only on paper — and in plans drawn-up by a team from the Government of Nunavut, the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. and the architectural firm Ferguson Simek Clark.

Right now, they’re still spending their days fine-tuning the joint project.

It’s been a challenge, they say, to cut costs, maintain a tight schedule and make sure the building meets Canadian standards, city planning requirements, and local expectations.

“We don’t usually build a 35-bed hospital in a cold place. And it’s still a regional hospital, too. It has to give a lot of services,” said Yves-André Bureau, QC’s hospital project manager.

The new hospital also lies directly over the city’s main utilidor and power connections.

The contract for construction of the hospital building will go to tender early next year. Construction is supposed to start next summer, and site preparation work is already under way.

The government, QC, and a group of MLAs from Iqaluit and the Baffin region held a ground-breaking ceremony on the site earlier this month.

The aging Baffin Regional Hospital, built in 1962, is often blamed for scaring medical specialists away from Iqaluit, has shown potentially dangerous signs of age and can’t accommodate many new technologies and equipment.

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