Efforts to save old Sask. Hospital façade to continue: Shury

Local efforts are continuing to save at least part of the old Saskatchewan Hospital, in the wake of reports that the province has failed to receive any private bids to purchase the hospital.

The province had issued a request for proposals in August for the main hospital building and several surrounding buildings, and officials have indicated demolition is the next step as no bids were received.

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Nevertheless, Jane Shury, chair of the Save Saskatchewan Hospital committee of the North West Historical Society, says members of her committee are planning to meet with government representatives in the near future with a view to preserving whatever they can from the old hospital.

The committee has proposed preserving the front façade of the entrance to the old hospital, and installing walking trails and interpretative panels.

“We’ve been working with the government in regards to this for the past couple of years,” Shury said.

“We will in the very near future be meeting with them, because we did make a proposal in regards to saving the history and some part of the hospital. And that’s as much at this time that is confirmed.”

Shury adds she will provide more information after that meeting happens. She also had no further information on what is happening with the old Saskatchewan Hospital beyond what has already been reported.

The committee’s proposals were presented at an open house on the future of the old Saskatchewan Hospital site held last year at the Tropical Inn. Shury has told the News-Optimist that essentially nothing has changed about the proposal.

The one question that had been hanging in the air for the committee was whether they would have had to negotiate their plan with the province, or with any private bidder that might have come forward. 

“Now that that’s off the table, we know we will continue working with the government because they know what our project is and they were extremely pleased with what we had proposed,” said Shury. “Hopefully we will be able to proceed as planned.”

In the RFP issued by the Ministry of Central Services were buidings that included the 255,532 square foot main building, the powerhouse, industrial therapy building, laundry building, 11 cottages, the Community Correctional Centre building, a greenhouse, curling rink, paint shop, dormitory, a Quonset, maintenance shop, equipment storage building, garage, maintenance storage building, two cottage garages and a cultural building. The buildings, some of which may contain asbestos, were to be sold “as is.”

The Chapel, Cenotaph and cemeteries were not to be included in any sale. In addition, items deemed historically significant by the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport were to be identified and removed by the Ministry of Central Services before any sale was finalized.

The old Saskatchewan Hospital was built between 1911 and 1913, the first mental health hospital built in the province. A new hospital was officially opened in March of this year, marking the end of service for the old facility.

Last summer, in an information session in North Battleford, Nancy Cherney, assistant deputy minister of the property management division of Central Services, said, “Government has determined that it has not got a government purpose for the old hospital. So in our world, that means it’s surplus to government’s needs. And in that case what we will do is go to the market with a request for proposals to determine if there was someone else who might have an interest in acquiring some or all of that property, some or all of the buildings, for removal or redevelopment or repurposing.”

If someone doesn’t come forward with a use for the former hospital, “ultimately we need to look at our options going forward, which would likely include demolition at some point if we don’t have anyone else who’s interested in developing or using it. That’s the only option left to us.”

She noted the smokestack that is “crumbling from the inside out,” should be removed for safety reasons.

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